In Israel, Arab Villages Take Leading Role in Drama Over Netanyahu’s Fate

In Israel, Arab Villages Take Leading Role in Drama Over Netanyahu’s Fate

In Israel, Arab Villages Take Leading Role in Drama Over Netanyahu’s Fate Photo

KHASHEM ZANNEH, Israel—In his campaign to thwart a rival coalition that seeks to end his 12-year rule as soon as Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is turning to a stretch of ramshackle huts in the desert of southern Israel.

Hundreds of families live in homes made of tin or cinder block along a highway that runs through Israel from the Gaza Strip to Jordan. Khashem Zanneh lacks a power grid and paved roads and has no supermarket or even a school for its children.

The village and 34 other Bedouin communities lack such basic infrastructure because neither Israel’s courts nor its government has ever recognized the communities, leaving their residents in legal limbo.

“For 70 years, the state has looked at us like a group of outlaws,” says Dr. Kayed al-Athamen, 41 years old, who has for years dreamed of building his village’s first health clinic. “The time has come for [the state] to treat us like everyone else.”

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