Knesset to decide on land reform plan

Finance Committee rejects all the appeals filed against bill to privatize state-owned land.

houses 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
houses 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset Finance Committee on Monday rejected all the appeals filed against the Israel Lands Administration reform plan, and the bill is expected to be sent for second and third readings at the plenum floor later in the day. The reform, which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to promote as part of his election platform, is meant to restructure the bureaucracy-laden land-allocating institution and includes a plan to privatize five percent of state-owned land and transfer it to its current lessees in perpetuity. Kadima MK Otniel Schneller was removed from the Finance Committee's meeting after he held out a Jewish National Fund money box and tried to solicit donations from the MKs as an act of protest against the reform plan. Since its inception, it has been Israel's policy not to sell land outright to homeowners. Instead, buyers have been given permission to lease the land for a period of 49 years, with an option to extend the lease almost automatically. The rationale for state ownership of 93% of the total land area has always been that this is a key instrument for achieving territorial and demographic stability. On Sunday evening, roughly 500 people protested the reform in the Rose Garden opposite the Knesset. Some of the protesters were wearing business suits and holding up a large cake, representing the state being cut up and handed out to real estate tycoons. Protesters held up signs reading "And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity" and "Bibi, Barak and Yishai are selling Israel." MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), has claimed there is a clause in the law that discriminates against Israeli Arabs. Ron Friedman contributed to this report