Photo Credit: Gili Yaari / Flash 90
Israeli children plant trees in a JNF forest near Modiin (archive).

On Sunday, the KKL-JNF management (a separate entity from the American based JNF-USA) approved a draft resolution that officially changes the organization’s policy and regulates its activity in Judea and Samaria while expanding the purchase of lands for the benefit of the Jewish settlement.

The resolution adopts the legal opinion written for the organization in September 2019 by Judge Yosef Alon, according to which the JNF can purchase land in Judea and Samaria that “is intended for the settlement of Jews.”

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The resolution was passed by a narrow majority of six supporters against five opponents.

In a separate decision, the JNF management allocated NIS 38 million ($11.7 million) for the purchase of land in Judea and Samaria.

The final approval of the resolution, is conditioned on its approval by the organization’s board of directors which postponed its vote until after the March 23 election.

According to the resolution, which has already been condemned by the State Dept., JNF will purchase private land as part of a “land redemption.” According to the proposal, priority will be given to the purchase of land in settlement areas, land that can be built on with a high probability of government approval, and land adjacent to existing settlements for the purpose of expanding them.

JNF has been operating unofficially in Judea and Samaria for years, through its subsidiary Heimanuta, located in Jerusalem. Now it appears from the resolution that JNF will give priority to the purchase of land in Gush Etzion, the Jordan Valley, the Jerusalem Envelope, Binyamin, the southern Hebron Mountains, and the vicinity of Route 5 and the old “green line.” No land will be purchased in the Shechem or Jenin areas.

The resolution stipulates that JNF will continue its forestry project in open areas in Judea and Samaria “to preserve the real estate,” in coordination with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

It was also decided to change the name of JNF’s subsidiary Heimanuta to Kedma Judea and Samaria.

The resolution has led to pressure from representatives of the left-wing parties that are members of the JNF management. Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz said: “The right is turning JNF into the Jewish National Fund for Settlements. JNF is not a contractor for the destruction of the political solution and the chance for peace.”

Remarkably, the left-wing parties that control almost half the JNF management possess between them about 5 Knesset seats, and one of them, Meretz, appears destined to fall below the threshold vote in the March 23 election.

The leftists in the JNF’s management also warned that the move would have serious consequences for JNF’s status among the Jewish communities around the world. Gilad Kariv, a Reform clergyman who represents the Reform movement on the board of the World Zionist Organization (did you know the Reform were Zionists?) and is running on the Labor Party’s list for the Knesset (4th place), said that the JNF resolution posed a “significant threat to national institutions in general and the Jewish National Fund in particular.” Kariv added that the Labor Party would insist “that the JNF will not become the long arm of the outposts enterprise in Judea and Samaria.”

The State Department’s spokesman Ned Price addressed the JNF resolution last Thursday at a daily briefing, saying “it is critical to avoid unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut the efforts to achieve a two-state solution. This includes annexation, settlement building, demolitions, incitement, and payments for terrorists.”

So, nothing new there.

The chairman of the organization, Avraham Duvdevani, who is affiliated with the Religious Zionist parties, together with Shlomo Deri, the brother of Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas), originally wanted a two-thirds approval of the proposal but realized they didn’t have the special majority.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue&White) wrote Duvdevani before the meeting that this was a “very sensitive” decision and that its consequences should be examined, because it may have implications at the international level – Israel’s relationship with the Biden administration, as well as with diaspora Jews.

Incidentally, according to Wiki, the Jewish National Fund – Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine (later the British Mandate for Palestine, and subsequently Israel and the Palestinian territories) for Jewish settlement. Redeeming land for Jewish settlements is written into its definition. I’m just saying.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.