The directorate of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is expected to meet tomorrow, Sunday, February 14, to discuss a proposal that would allow it to directly purchase land in the occupied Palestinian West Bank for the potential expansion of settlements.
According to the proposal, the details of which were first published on the Walla news website, the JNF would acquire private land, with priority given to land within settlements and land where construction is expected to face few obstacles. The Zionist organization has until now operated in the West Bank through a subsidiary, “Himanuta,” and is set to discuss a proposal to allow it to purchase land in and near settlement blocs without an intermediary.
In reaction to the change, Peace Now indicated “The JNF has long had a dark side in discreetly facilitating settlement expansion. This latest news on it intending to purchase private Palestinian land is a decision to bring it into the open.”
In November 2017, the JNF published a tender for the position of a “Judea and Samaria Transactions Coordinator.” Among other things, the coordinator will be in charge of “examining land transactions of the Himanuta company in Judea and Samaria and identifying properties and contacting their owners.”
The role and involvement of JNF in establishing and expanding settlements in the West Bank has remained, until now, far from the public eye. Historically, the JNF has made an effort to downplay its activities in the West Bank out of the fear that this will negatively affect its positioning and its fundraising abilities throughout Jewish communities around the world. Yet the JNF has played a major role in the development of settlements and, until today, it is active in their expansion. The majority of JNF’s activities in settlements today include infrastructure development, tourism, education and roads. A document published by journalist Raviv Druker several years ago, revealed that between the years 2002 and 2013 the JNF invested close to 50 million shekels in different projects in the settlements.
Past purchases by Himanuta have been proven to be based on forgery, fraud and extortion. For example, for land it bought in the area of Jericho, Himanuta paid millions of shekels, but the sale was based on forged documents. Those involved in the deal are currently being investigated towards possible indictment for fraud. Yet since the majority of Himanuta’s purchases were made during the 1970s and 1980s, these have never been investigated and there is no readily accessible information regarding their legitimacy. As a result, today Himanuta ostensibly owns tens of thousands of dunams in the West Bank, on which the settlements of Itamar, Alfei Menashe, Enav, Kdumim, Givat Ze’ev, Metzadot Yehuda, Otniel and others were established.
The JNF, whether directly or through its subsidiary Himanuta, has also assisted and is currently assisting Jewish settlers in Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem to take over homes of Palestinians and to evict Palestinian families, in cooperation with far-right settler groups like Elad.
Related: MK Khenin: “Nationalize the JNF!”