Bill approved forbidding sale of land to foreigners

Knesset Law Committee approves bill aimed to prevent hostile people or organizations from purchasing Israeli land.

By RON FRIEDMAN
March 17, 2011 05:37
2 minute read.
Building in Tel Aviv’s Nahlat Binyamin

Nachlat Binyamin building 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The Knesset Law Committee on Wednesday approved a bill prohibiting the sale or transfer of state lands to foreigners.

The bill, which will now go to its final readings in the Knesset plenum, aims to prevent hostile people or organizations from purchasing Israeli land.

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The bill, an amendment to the Israeli Lands Law, was sponsored by Kadima MKs Nachman Shai and Ronit Tirosh, Likud MK Yariv Levin, Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich and Habayit Hayehudi MK Uri Orbach.

The bill requires all sales or transfers of land to foreigners to be approved by the construction and housing minister in consultation with a committee of Israel Lands Authority (ILA) officials.

The bill defines foreigners as people who are not citizens or permanent residents of Israel and do not enjoy immigration rights under the Law of Return. Special exemptions are provided in the law for foreign countries and international organizations as well as for multinational corporations that Israel is interested in having enter or remain in the country.

An clause to limit the transfer of land to foreign Jews who do not plan to immigrate and thus prevent the creation of “ghost neighborhoods,” of housing units that are unoccupied much of the time, was shot down by Levin, who said that it veered from the main purpose of the bill.

“We’re here to prevent hostile takeover of the land, not to prevent a Jew who wants to purchase five apartments from doing so,” said Levin. “Differentiating between Jews who plan to immigrate and those who don’t is both impossible to do and goes against the foundations of Zionism.”



Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) sharply opposed a suggestion raised by the other MKs to impose limitations on the transfer of land to foreigners through inheritance.

He said that doing so would create insurmountable legal difficulties.

Rules limiting the sale and transfer of state lands to foreigners already exist in the form of Israel Land Council regulations, but the bill aims to give them additional grounding in the law. The bill would also extend the scope of the regulations to land that was privatized as a result of the ILA reform , which was passed in the Knesset at the end of 2009 and which for the first time authorized state lands to be passed to private hands.

The ILA representative to the meeting said that over the past few years several dozen requests for land transfer to foreigners were submitted to the ILA , but that only a fraction of them had been authorized.

As opposed to other committee meetings that dealt with the bill, Wednesday’s discussion was devoid of vocal opposition of left-wing and Arab MKs, who in the past had said the bill was racist and discriminated against Israel’s non-Jewish minorities.

The bill was approved for its second and third readings by a vote of 4-0.

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