KKL-JNF board in uproar over ‘undemocratic vote’ to buy Palestinian land

The KKL-JNF said in response that on Thursday the KKL-JNF’s board of directors approved a specific budget totaling NIS 138 million.

JNF-USA forest in Rosh Ha'Ayin (photo credit: JNF USA)
JNF-USA forest in Rosh Ha'Ayin
(photo credit: JNF USA)
Five KKL-JNF board members have asked the group’s legal adviser to void Thursday’s vote to allocate NIS 38 million to purchase private Palestinian lands, charging that the process was flawed and undemocratic.
“We believe that it is your duty to intervene,” the board members wrote in a letter to the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund’s legal adviser, Shoshi Taragin, and its chairman Avraham Duvdevani, as well as to Israel’s Registrar of Associations.
The KKL-JNF said in response that on Thursday the KKL-JNF’s board of directors approved a specific budget totaling NIS 138 million.
Out of that sum, “NIS 100 million of which for land purchasing in the Galilee and the Negev and NIS 38 million of which are reserved for the potential purchasing of land in Judea and Samaria,” it stated.
“Any, if at all decisions on the latter are still pending the board’s general policy discussions and final approval,” the KKL-JNF added.
In their letter, however, the five board members described a process in which they alleged that information was withheld from board members prior to the meeting and inaccurate information was provided during the meeting.
The meeting of the board was held partially in person and partially on Zoom, they charged. But not everyone was allowed to physically attend the meeting, they added.
Those on Zoom were not privy to all the discussions in the room and were not made aware of all the participants who were physically present, the five board members stated.
Those who signed the letter were Haim Cohen, Danny Avidor, Ronit Boytner, Rani Trainin and Gadi Perl.
They represented a larger group within the 37-member board who were upset over the proceedings.
“I am outraged,” said board member Emily Levy-Shochat, who represents Mercaz Olami, a global arm of the Masorti Conservative Movement.
The issue here is not about the funding or the plan for the purchase of private Palestinian property in the West Bank, she said.
She would have respected the result of a proper vote of the vote irrespective of her opinion on the matter. Some 15 to 16 board members voiced their concern on this matter by leaving the meeting immediately after the vote, she said.
“Our concern is about the undemocratic process whereby the right of expression and the right to raise questions was simply denied,” Levy-Shochat said.
“It was not only denied, it was done in a demeaning and degrading manner,” she said.
The vote to allocate the funding on Thursday passed by a slim margin. It advanced a wide-ranging plan for settlement development that narrowly received approval of the KKL-JNF’s executive board earlier this month.
A final vote on the matter is expected to be held only after the March 23 elections. Opponents of the move see the budget allocation as part of a strategy to strong arm the organization into embarking on the purchase plan ahead of the final vote.
The allocation was set aside as part of a larger budgetary vote for funds for land purchase within sovereign Israel and the money is presumed to be on hold until after a final vote is taken on the matter.
The purchases would be limited to private Palestinian property within existing West Bank settlements or to land immediately adjacent to those communities.
The KKL-JNF has been active in land purchases since its inception in 1901, but it has publicly focused most of its activity within sovereign Israel. It has, however ,been involved in land purchases in the West Bank, but not as part of a wide-ranging policy.
The plan has created controversy both within the board and outside of it, by those who worry that it politicizes an organization whose focus should be devoted to activity within sovereign Israel.
It comes as the Biden administration persistently warns Israel against unilateral steps in the West Bank such as settlement development.