Three different committees have examined since 2019 the land acquisitions in Judea and Samaria by the KKL-JNF subsidiary, Heimanuta Jerusalem. In August 2020, former Deputy State Attorney Joshua Lemberger issued a 235-page report that harshly criticized Heimanuta’s way of purchasing land beyond the Green Line, and members of its board of directors who, according to Lamberger, acted without authority.
Now a new report, only 20 pages long, has been issued by retired Judge Rahamim Cohen, clearing the directors of the accusation of unauthorized acquisitions, but also calling on the organization to regulate its land acquisition policy and make it transparent.
In March 2019, KKL-JNF’s internal auditor warned then-chairman of the board Danny Atar that the organization’s activities in Judea and Samaria should be examined legally. A month later, KKL-JNF temporarily suspend Heimanuta’s acquisitions, pending a report to be issued by retired judge Yosef Alon. It should be noted that Heimanuta was established for the sole purpose of making land purchases beyond the Green Line.
In September 2019, Judge Alon suggested that Heimanuta’s activities beyond the Green Line should be regulated, and the KKL-JNF management determined in February 2021 that Heimanuta’s land acquisitions would be limited to Area C only (Area C is under both civilian and military Israeli control – DI).
In 2019, another investigation was carried out, this one by Lemberger, acting as an external auditor. Lemberger’s report on “the corporate conduct of KKL-JNF and decision making in Heimanuta Jerusalem” shocked KKL-JNF and had a chilling effect on its land acquisitions across the Green Line through Heimanuta Jerusalem. The report also accused Heimanuta Jerusalem board members Nachi Eyal and Arnan Felman, and CEO Alex Hefetz of “acting an institutional conflict of interest that became exacerbated ‘given the secrecy in which they acted.'”
Globes reported on Tuesday (דוח חדש קורא להסדרת הפעילות של קק״ל ביהודה ושומרון) that the accused board members who had not been given an opportunity to speak to Lemberger before the report was issued, contacted KKL-JNF and demanded another investigation, including an examination of their claims, that would remove the cloud that was hovering over their heads. Subsequently, last September, Judge Cohen was appointed, and his report, which was obtained by Globes, clears the three men of all guilt, but once again raises the issue of regulations.
Judge Cohen notes in his report that he was presented with documents that had not been brought before Lemberger that shed more light on the issue of land acquisitions in Judea and Samaria. For instance, the accused presented Judge Cohen with a document from a Hebron resident who approached former-Chairman Atar saying he was interested in selling land in Hebron, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. Atar transferred the potential seller to Heimanuta’s CEO Alex Hefetz, who promptly responded that he is “taking care of it immediately.” Other documents indicate a continuous activity of the JNF in 1982, 1992, 2006, 2008, and so on.
According to the Judge Cohen report, in 2017, the KKL-JNF management committee decided to allocate NIS 250 million ($79 million) to Heimanuta to purchase and improve land and properties in the Negev, Galilee, Jerusalem, and the periphery. “Periphery” was in reality a code name for Judea and Samaria. But while the organization was doing its job, the need for secrecy remained vital. Six transactions made since 2017 using those NIS 250 million were discussed by the group’s real estate committee, and those deliberations were kept secret, “to protect the safety of land sellers and donors from harassment,” Judge Cohen reported.
In December 2018, I reported that 44 PA Arabs had been arrested and accused of selling land to Jews (Apartheid: PA Security Boasts of Preventing Sale of 750 Acres to Jews). The Palestinian Authority land laws prohibit Arab residents from selling their lands to “any man or judicial body corporation of Israeli citizenship, living in Israel or acting on its behalf,” in a flagrant violation of the civil rights of Jewish buyers. Land sales to Israelis are considered treason by the PA and PA citizens who sell land to Israelis can be subject to the death penalty. When captured, suspects are tortured by the PA security service and kept behind bars for long periods without a trial.
So while Judge Cohen’s short report clears the Heimanuta officials who made the transactions beyond the Green Line and rules that they acted with authority, the judge reiterates the ruling of Judge Alon and attorney Lemberger regarding the need for regulating the way Heimanuta does business in Judea and Samaria, and the need for transparency.
The judge insists a mechanism must be established for reporting to the organization’s executives on Judea and Samaria transactions and their scope—despite the need for confidentiality.