Hundreds of people have signed a petition urging Jewish National Fund board members in Israel to reject proposals that would overturn its self-imposed ban on purchasing Palestinian land in the West Bank.
The board will vote on Thursday on the plans to allocate millions of shekels to a fund that would buy lands beyond the Green Line, the armistice line that separated Israel from its neighbours in 1949.
But an open letter endorsed by left-wing Jewish groups in Britain and the United States says the resolution would see millions “poured into the purchasing of Palestinian land in the West Bank for the explicit purpose of expanding settlements and deepening the occupation.”
“If passed, this resolution will be disastrous for Palestinian human rights and livelihoods, will expand the settlements and prevent progress towards peace,” the letter adds.
The Jewish National Fund in Israel, which is also known by its Hebrew initials KKL, is a separate entity from other organisations carrying the same name, such as JNF-UK.
The Israeli JNF’s plans — to create a 38 million-shekel (£8.3 million) fund to buy West Bank land for expanding existing settlements — were provisionally endorsed by management last week.
An earlier draft said land around Nablus and Jenin would be excluded because both are towns with large Palestinian populations, but the Times of Israel reported that provision has since been dropped.
The proposals must still be approved by a full meeting of the board scheduled to take place on Thursday, which will be attended by representatives of Israeli political parties and several international Jewish organisations.
Two women’s Zionist groups – WIZO and Hadassah – and the Maccabi youth movement have enough votes between them to overturn the proposal, according to the open letter.
“These organisations have a seat at the table and their vote directly impacts the prospect of achieving peace in Israel/Palestine,” it says.
Signatories to the letter include members of left-leaning Jewish groups J Street and Yachad, as well as synagogues and Jewish societies across Britain.
An effort to vote on the proposal was delayed until after last month’s election following pressure from Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who told the JNF chairman Avraham Duvdevani that the decision was “extremely sensitive” and could affect Israel’s relationship with the United States.
The Biden administration is understood to oppose the move.
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”