Hundreds call on Jewish National Fund to reject West Bank land purchase plan

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Hundreds call on Jewish National Fund to reject West Bank land purchase plan

The board of Israel’s JNF will vote this week on plans to overturn its longstanding policy of not buying land to expand settlements

Michael Daventry is foreign editor of Jewish News

A Palestinian boy looks behind a wall separating Jewish part and Palestinian part of the West Bank. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A Palestinian boy looks behind a wall separating Jewish and Palestinian parts of the West Bank in 2020 (Photo: AP/Ariel Schalit)

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.

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