Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund gave its initial approval Sunday by a slim margin of 6-5 for a wide ranging plan to purchase private Palestinian property for settlement building, but delayed final approval until after the March elections.
The Sunday meeting was held by its executive committee, but must receive approval of its board.
Likud Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar welcomed KKL-JNF’s “important and courageous decision.”
The Left-wing group Peace Now said, “this is far from over. The full board still needs to vote, and we will work with our Israeli partners to do everything that we can to stop this disastrous policy.”
Earlier in the day Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White) had written a letter to KKL-JNF urging it to delay the project and to study the implications of the matter, including its impact on Israel’s relations with the United States. A copy of the letter was obtained by the Hebrew language news organization Walla.
KKL-JNF has historically purchased land for Jews since 1901, both within sovereign Israel and on what is now known as the West Bank.
But should this plan receive final approval, it would mark the first time that there is a wide ranging public plan to develop the settlements.
Executive Committee member Rami Trainin, who represents the Meretz Party, said in the past the KKL-JNF has focused on territory for which there is wide consensus that it would be part of Israel’s final sovereign borders.
This plan, however, makes no such distinction and would include territory that would strengthen any of the settlements.
He said he hoped that world wide opinion would sway the KKL-JNF to reject the plan.
The Union for Reform Judaism over the weekend urged the KKL-JNF to scuttle the plan.
“We have long opposed the proliferation of settlements because they endanger the possibility of a two-state solution,” it said.
“In the fall of 2019, we blew the whistle and strongly criticized KKL-JNF when we discovered that they were secretly purchasing land in the West Bank,” it said.
Now the Union of Reform Judaism stated that the KKL-JNF plans to make such purchases openly “as part of the agenda of the organization’s new right-wing leadership.
“Politicizing support for cherished Zionist institutions ill services the cause of Zionism and the unity of the Jewish people. Especially at this moment when Israel is looking to forge a strong relationship with the Biden administration this unilateral move could be inflammatory and harmful.”
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based right-wing Kohelet Policy Forum spoke in support of the KKL-JNF plan to purchase private Palestinian property.
“Under international law, there is absolutely no restriction on land sales between private parties based on their ethnicity. Indeed, suggesting that Jews should not be allowed to buy land in consensual transactions goes against deep anti-discrimination principles.“ Kontorovich said.
The KKL-JNF plan is limited to land within existing settlements or adjacent to those communities. Priority would be placed on land that could easily be made available for Jewish construction.
The exact details of how such purchases would be prioritized has yet to be voted on by the KKL-JNF.