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Jewish National Fund moves towards approval for West Bank land purchases

Israeli settlements dispossess the Palestinian people of their land [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 12 April, 2021

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Israel's Jewish National Fund's executive committee has approved a proposal to allow the buying of West Bank lands, leaving just one more hurdle before the policy goes into effect.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is close to giving approval to the purchase of land in the occupied West Bank after a nod from the Israeli group's executive committee on Sunday, Haaretz reported.

The policy would see land bought by the JNF used to enlarge existing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, which are considered illegal under international law.

The JNF board of directors, who are due to meet on 22 April, must agree to the proposal before it is adopted.

If passed, the decision would apply to land bought in disconnected settlements.

Read more: UN says Israeli settlements are ‘major obstacles to peace’

It is unclear if the board will adopt the measure and left-of-centre groups in the JNF are campaigning to have it axed.

One committee member described the proposal as "worse than the previous version", which explicitly ruled out land purchases in Nablus and Jenin - places roundly accepted as Palestinian.

There is no provision banning the purchase of land in these areas in the current proposal.

Expanding Israel, shrinking Palestine
Click here to enlarge image.

Amendments reportedly up for debate at the next meeting were described as "minor" by left-wing committee members.

The Israeli Labor Party's Rabbi Gilad Kariv said right-wing members of the executive committee were making a "dangerous maneuver on an issue with political, diplomatic and security implications".

He said they are doing so without determining its lawfulness or discussing the matter with defence and external affairs specialists.

Insiders present at the meeting last week told Haaretz that the Jewish National Fund’s world chairman, Avraham Duvdevani, is seeking another vote next Sunday.

This second vote, if carried, would make the policy apply retrospectively to multiple purchases subject to public criticism.

Himnuta Jerusalem, an organisation subordinate to the Fund, has spent approximately $30 million purchasing land in the West Bank since 2017.

The cash used to finance this was supposed to be used in "Jerusalem and the periphery", but its true destination was not revealed to the appropriate JNF authorities.

A report by the lawyer Yehoshua Lemberger found that the board, save two members "knew nothing about what was happening".

Israeli settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law.

More than 600,000 people currently live in over 200 settlements, according to Israeli NGO B'Tselem.

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