KKL-JNF board members: decision to buy West Bank land illegal, must be stopped
Representatives of the reformist and conservative movements on the board of the Jewish National Fund on Tuesday called on the organization to suspend its efforts to buy land in the West Bank.
The leadership of the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) on Sunday approved a policy change that would allow it to buy West Bank land, including areas with isolated settlements. The decision is always subject to the approval of the full board.
Seven board members, including two from the organization’s leadership, sent a letter to KKL-JNF chairman Avi Duvdevani, asking him to suspend a board meeting scheduled for April 22 to approve the new policy, Haaretz reported. .
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In February, the KKL-JNF voted the allocation of 38 million shekels ($ 11.58 million) for the purchase of land in the West Bank. The controversial vote indicated a change in policy – KKL-JNF would take operations beyond the Green Line to another level, buying land with the aim of expanding settlements. (KKL-JNF is a separate entity from JNF-USA.)
The February decision, which was adopted by a single vote, clarified that there would be no shopping in the neighborhoods of the Palestinian cities of Nablus and Jenin – areas with very few Jewish settlements. In the current proposal, the note was omitted, Haaretz reported.
The resolution was based on the opinion of retired judge Yoseph Elon, who said KKL-JNF can operate in the territories to promote community, environmental and educational projects.
The centrist and leftist factions of the KKL-JNF board have submitted a counter-opinion of Shachar Ben-Meir, who challenges Elon’s judgment. Both views focus on a sentence from the organization’s memorandum of association, which allows the KKL-JNF to acquire land “in any area under the jurisdiction of the government of Israel,” Haaretz said.
According to the proposal, KKL-JNF would only buy private land, with a preference for land where settlements already exist, or which allow the expansion of existing settlements.
If Israel asks the KKL-JNF to buy land that does not meet these criteria, the decision will be left to the KKL-JNF board of directors. The committee will be able to authorize the purchase of any land that does not meet these criteria while it is under Israel’s jurisdiction, Haaretz said.
After the February vote, the left-wing Meretz faction said it would run for another vote given the tight results.
A group of council members representing left-wing factions subsequently filed a petition calling for the vote to be quashed. They cited Duvdevani’s professional misconduct, saying he muted some members in the Zoom meeting and prevented others from answering questions, then rushed the vote. In addition, the petitioners claimed that legal opinions criticizing KKL-JNF’s covert conduct beyond the Green Line were withheld from board members.
KKL-JNF, established in 1901 to purchase and develop land for Jewish settlements and best known for the hundreds of millions of trees it planted across Israel, serves as the guardian of the Jewish people for approximately 15% of the land in the country, the direction of which is carried out by the Israel Land Authority.
An organization officially registered as a public benefit enterprise, KKL-JNF operates in the fields of forestry, water, education, community development, tourism, and research and development. The World Zionist Organization is its parent body.