Israel secretly bought land in West Bank: report

Israel secretly bought Palestinian land for settlement expansion: report
2 min read
16 July, 2021
The secret land deals sought to acquire land in Area C of the West Bank, expanding illegal settlements and undermining the prospect of a two-state solution, according to a report.
An Israeli settler in the West Bank [Getty]

Israel’s Jewish National Fund secretly purchased Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank in favour of Jewish settlers, an investigative report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz has found.

The deals reflect a behaviour that is "both problematic and questionable," the newspaper noted, condemning the conduct of an organisation founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine for Jewish settlement.

The JNF discussed earlier this year the purchase of Palestinian lands in Area C of the West Bank, potentially for hundreds of millions of dollars, for the development of existing settlements that are considered illegal under international law.

The debate was seen as a major policy change for the century-old organisation, though the characterisation was rejected by the JNF, which maintained it has long operated in the West Bank.

Documents reviewed by Haaretz reveal that the Defence Ministry recruited the JNF to purchase Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank. Additionally, it uncovered a series of deals carried out by Himanuta, a JNF subsidiary in the West Bank, which were concealed from the board of directors of the JNF.

The details of these transactions had so far appeared only in internal reports.

Many of the JNF board members and employees identified as responsible for the land deals were linked to the political right.

The board vote on the deals on West Bank transactions have been postponed.

Since 2017, the JNF bought lands in the West Bank worth $30 million through the Himanuta. The money was sourced from a budget dedicated to buying lands "in Jerusalem and the periphery," according to Haaretz.

Asked about the JNF’s engagement in the West Bank, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said "it is critical to avoid unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut the efforts to achieve a two-state solution."

Israel has become more and more entrenched in the West Bank, with new Jewish settlements increasingly hindering prospects of a viable Palestinian state on that land.