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05TELAVIV6667 2005-11-28 10:50:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 006667 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/28/2015

Classified By: Economic Counselor William Weinstein for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has several
projects in the planning stages designed to improve the
Bedouin employment situation in the Negev. Michal Uziyahu
from the Negev Development Authority (NDA) said one tourism
plan divides the Negev into six regions and calls for the GOI
to develop sites highlighting a different Bedouin cultural
field group in each area. This plan will be reviewed by a
board comprised of the MoT, NDA and Negev community
officials, who will meet on November 30. Uziyahu described
another plan called the Tourism Greenhouse project, which
acts as a hothouse for encouraging entrepreneurs from the
Negev to start new tourism businesses in the region.
Finally, she touched on a project spearheaded by the private
firm of Geo-Teva in the Bedouin village of Derijat, which
will showcase the Negev's medicinal and aromatic plants.
Aref Abu Rabia, a Bedouin professor at Ben Gurion University
working with Geo-Teva was not optimistic about the GOI
sponsored tourism projects. He claimed that the GOI is
barely investing any money in the Bedouin community and that
the Bedouin still suffer from an unemployment rate in the 50
to 60 percent range. END SUMMARY.


GOI's Tourism Plan for Bedouin Employment


2. (C) On November 21, econoff met with Michal Uziyahu,
Manager of Tourism for the Negev Development Authority (NDA).
Uziyahu said the NDA has a broad set of responsibilities and
was created to help generate employment and revenue for the
region. She said the NDA reports directly to former Vice
Premier Shimon Peres' office.

3. (C) Uziyahu said that a tourism master plan for the
Bedouin sector was initiated by the NDA and has now reached
the final stage. She indicated that a review panel made up
of members from the Ministries of Tourism and Agriculture,
former Peres office employees, mayors from various Negev
townships, and the Israel Land Authority (ILA) will vote on
the plan on November 30.

4. (C) Uziyahu said a private company called Geo-Teva headed
by David Meninger, who advises public and private bodies on
environmental and tourism issues, was recently hired to
spearhead the first project to take place in the village of
Derijat in the Arad region. The plan is to give tourists the
opportunity to tour gardens consisting of medicinal and
aromatic plants. Note: In a related story Geo-Teva is also
planning to use the town of Segev Shalom to establish a field
school called Darkhei Midbar (Ways of the Desert), which will
serve as a center for Bedouin field studies. End Note.

5. (C) She explained that the tourism plan divides the Negev
into six regions; sites highlighting a different topic
related to Bedouin culture will be developed in each region.
She noted that final approval of the plan is required before
funding is received from the Ministry of Tourism (MoT), the
Jewish National Fund (JNF), and possibly the Ministry of
Agriculture and the Jewish Agency.

6. (C) Uziyahu also discussed an umbrella program called the
"Tourism Greenhouse," which currently provides business
entrepreneurs a chance to initiate projects in the Negev.
She said the NDA will pay 75 percent of the consultation fees
incurred by individuals seeking to start a business in the
region. She said close to fifty Bedouin entrepreneurs have
approached her office. She stressed, however, that
consultations need to be completed and statutory requirements
met before any project can be initiated.


Abu Rabia: GOI Tourism Plans Not Realistic


7. (C) On November 23, econoff met with Dr. Aref Abu Rabia,
Chair of the Department of Middle East Studies and Professor
of Anthropology at Ben Gurion University in the Negev. Abu
Rabia is a Bedouin who lives in the unrecognized village of
Kuhla, which has a population of 500 Bedouin and is located
35 kilometers (22 miles) northeast of Beer Sheva. Abu Rabia
confirmed his partnership with Geo-Teva's project in Derijat,
but said he is pessimistic about the tourism initiative and
other projects designed to improve the dismal employment
situation of the Bedouin.

8. (C) When asked why he was critical of GOI efforts to help
the Bedouin through tourism, Abu Rabia pointed to the
historical land dispute between the GOI and Bedouin, the
small amount of money allocated to the Bedouin sector, and
the numerous home demolitions in the face of expanding Jewish
communities in the Negev. He said that these factors
represented major roadblocks to progress.

9. (C) Abu Rabia claimed that the NDA, MoT, and officials
from Peres' office responsible for the Bedouin have not
invested meaningful amounts of money in the Bedouin
community. He cited the Geo-Teva project as an example of a
project that has not moved beyond the planning stage due to a
lack of funding and infrastructure support. He said that he
has addressed the need for funding in previous meetings with
private and public officials, but that there has been no
response to these calls. He said he met David Meninger three
years ago, and NIS 250,000 (USD 55,555) later, nothing has
happened. He noted that Meninger and others working with him
used the NIS 250,000 for consultations, research and other
project related expenses, but none of the amount was used to
start the project.

10. (C) He ended the meeting by characterizing the overall
GOI approach to the Bedouin employment issue as superficial,
claiming that more than 90 percent of all money for Bedouin
projects go to non-Bedouin who spearhead projects in the
Negev and hire Bedouin as laborers. When econoff noted that
these projects created jobs for the Bedouin, Abu Rabia said
that it was cheap labor, adding that Bedouin unemployment in
the Negev stands at 50 to 60 percent.

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