AG Mazuz rules JNF land can now be sold to Arabs (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Yuval Yoaz and Amiram Barkat 01/27/05)
HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE
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All land managed by the Israel Lands Administration, including land
owned by the Jewish National Fund, will be marketed without
discrimination or limits including to non-Jews, Attorney General
Menachem Mazuz decided yesterday.
The revolutionary decision followed a discussion held in Mazuz´s
office attended by senior members of the state prosecutor´s office
and the legal advisers to the JNF and the ILA. The ruling was made in
preparation for the state´s response to High Court petitions filed on
The state prosecutor´s office believes it will not be able to defend
before the High Court the policy of allocating Jewish National Fund
land to Jews only. Within the next few weeks, the state is supposed
to inform the High Court of its position on petitions filed against
the Israel Lands Administration, which prevents non-Jews from
participating in tenders for JNF land.
Haaretz has learned that senior members of the state prosecutor´s
office believe that the policy is unreasonably discriminatory against
non-Jews, and will be very difficult to defend in court.
In August and October last year, three petitions against the policy
were filed with the High Court. The petitioners - the Arab Center for
Alternative Planning, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and
Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel - charge
that the policy is flawed and runs contrary to the fundamental
principles of Israel as a democratic state, and first and foremost,
the principle of equality.
Mazuz said at yesterday´s meeting that the state could not defend the
discrimination against Arabs in the framework of the marketing of JNF
land by the ILA. Nevertheless, in order to preserve the original
designated purpose of the JNF, which is formally defined as an
organization working "on behalf of the Jewish nation," and in the
name of the interests of the Diaspora Jews, it was decided that if
any ILA tender for land owned by the JNF is won by a non-Jewish
citizen, the ILA will transfer alternative land to the JNF.
This arrangement, say Justice Ministry sources, will achieve two
objectives. On the one hand, it will preserve the principle of
equality and cancel the discrimination against Arabs. On the other
hand, the JNF will retain its current quota - some 13 percent of
state land - and this land will continue to come under the JNF´s
principle of using this land "for the purpose of settling Jews."
Yesterday´s discussion culminated in a decision to set up a joint
state-JNF team to work out the finer details of Mazuz´s decision. The
team is expected to submit its recommendations within 90 days, and
the state prosecution will then submit its response to the High Court
Justice Ministry sources said that in light of the attorney general´s
decision, the state prosecutor´s office is likely to argue that the
petitions are superfluous and should be rejected, subject to the fact
that from now on any citizen can participate in an ILA tender for
acquiring land or purchasing a housing unit.
The JNF, which is wholly owned by the World Zionist Organization, was
established in 1901 and has since been collecting donations from
Diaspora Jews for the purpose of purchasing land in Israel. The JNF
leases the land to Jews only, in keeping with the fund´s regulations.
Since 1961 JNF land has been marketed by the ILA, a state-run entity
that manages state land. In contrast to the practice with regard to
other state land, non-Jews are currently prohibited from
participating in ILA tenders for leasing JNF land.
After the petitions were filed, senior members of the state
prosecutor´s office informed the heads of the JNF and ILA that it
would be very difficult to defend the policy in court.
JNF sources have accused the state prosecutor´s office of giving in
to post-Zionist trends, and too easily waiving the principle that the
State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people.
The JNF published a survey last week that shows that more than 70
percent of the Jewish public in Israel is opposed to allocating JNF
land to non-Jews, while more than 80 percent prefer Israel to be
defined as the state of the Jewish people and not the state of all
its citizens. (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 01/27/05)
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