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"KKL-JNF has set clear goals and we are achieving them. Our lands and money are managed with professionalism and total transparency; your donors know exactly what is being done with every shekel and are fully able to trust us." Alex Hefetz, Director of Hemnuta, KKL-JNF's subsidiary company, presented the WLC participants with a review of the current situation regarding lands and properties.
"I would like to greet conference participants on behalf of KKL-JNF Deputy Chairman, Menachem Leibovic, who unfortunately is unable to be here. KKL-JNF owns 2.6 million dunam of lands, which constitute 12.5% of Israel's land mass. This land is managed for KKL-JNF by the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) as per a covenant signed between the State of Israel and KKL-JNF in 1961. Within KKL-JNF, the Land Division oversees exactly how KKL-JNF owned land is managed by the ILA, in the belief that 'what you can't measure, you can't manage.' We sometimes catch mistakes, and since we are talking about huge amounts of money, a small mistake can mean millions of shekels. The significance of our involvement is, however, much greater. KKL-JNF opposes the ideology of privatization of land ownership. The ILA is therefore subject to KKL-JNF rules, which are that land is provided on a long-term lease, no transfer of ownership is possible, and the lands are for Jewish development. It seems though, that the Ministry of Finance has different agendas and sees the land from an economic standpoint only rather than considering Jewish ownership.
"This policy of ours is currently being contested in the Supreme Court by an Israeli Arab organization called Adallah. The government had a proposal for us regarding cities where our lands are already developed. We are talking about 200,000 apartments on 45,000 dunam. The government wants us to transfer this land to the government in exchange for 45,000 dunam in the Negev and Galilee plus financial compensation. KKL-JNF has agreed in principle as these lands have been built up anyway, but there is disagreement between KKL-JNF and the government regarding the amount of financial compensation.
"I would like to remind us all that KKL-JNF was created to be the trustee of the lands of Israel for the Jewish people, and we are proud to openly declare ourselves a Zionist organization. Part of KKL-JNF's mandate is to care for lands whose ownership is not known. I would like to point out that KKL-JNF has been the first Israeli organization to return any lands we held in trust for unknown Holocaust victims to their rightful owners, when they were properly identified. We are proud of this and it was publicized in the Israeli and foreign media."
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