(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset plenum approved the preliminary reading of a bill affirming that in the future, too, KKL-JNF land will be allocated for purposes of Jewish settlement only. This private bill was initiated by MK Uri Ariel (National Union - NRP) in conjunction with other Knesset members from center and right-wing parties. The bill passed with a clear majority of 64 in favor and 16 against.
The bill is designed to reinstate an earlier land swap arrangement between KKL-JNF and the Israel Lands Authority. Under this arrangement, which worked smoothly for many years, every citizen received the plot of land he or she wanted to lease, and if the lessee was not Jewish, the Israel Lands Authority compensated KKL-JNF with an equivalent area of land. The arrangement was changed unilaterally by the ILA recently, resulting in petitions to the High Court of Justice against both the State and KKL-JNF on grounds of discrimination and racism.
The bill will now be submitted for debate by the Knesset's Constitution, Law & Justice Committee, after which it will be returned to the plenum for three additional readings. Committee Chairman Professor Menahem Ben Sasson has made it clear in the past that he intends to include the Jewish nation's right to its properly and legally acquired land in the formulation of a constitution that will allow Israel to be both a Jewish and a democratic state. It is also worth noting that Justice Minister Professor Daniel Friedman has declared that the bill has no overtones of either racism or discrimination and that this opinion is shared by other leading jurists and thinkers.
The areas acquired by KKL-JNF to serve as national land reserves for purposes of Jewish settlement constitutes some 13% of Israel's land. It should also be borne in mind that the Muslim waqf owns about 2.5% of the country's lands and that no one objects to the fact that these are not sold to Jews. The rest of the area, apart from another 8% that is privately owned, is state land, which is leased to all residents of Israel, regardless of religion or ethnic background. This means that the debate is not concerned merely with how state lands are managed, but also with the very nature of Zionism and the continued existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People.