Former Jewish Underground Convict Receives More Than NIS 1.3 Million From State

The Israel Tax Authority paid him compensation for damage he suffered while cultivating land illegally in a Palestinian village – and he is suing for more.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

The Israel Tax Authority has given Menachem Livni, one of the former heads of the Jewish Underground and now a farmer in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, approximately NIS 1,327,123 in compensation over a period of years for damage caused to Palestinian land he's been cultivating, according to documents submitted to the High Court of Justice.

The documents, provided to Haaretz, indicate that Livni has been receiving these payments, including compensation of NIS 367,000 that was transferred to him from 2004 on, even though his official permission to use the land expired at the end of 2003.

Since the 1980s Livni, who was once sentenced to life imprisonment for engaging in anti-Arab violence perpetrated by the group known as the "Jewish Underground," has been cultivating cherries and grapes on 42 dunams of land located in the Palestinian village of Bani Na’im, near Hebron.

The place is commonly known by local settlers as Sadeh Calev, or Caleb's Field.

Local Palestinians have attacked the property numerous times in the past. In some cases, explosive devices were laid on the land, and at other times, seedlings, irrigation equipment and fences were stolen.

Due to the constant threats of violence and vandalism, the Israel Defense Forces assigns guards to protect Livni every time he works the plot, even though both in Israel and in the territories, private businesses are required to hire private guard services. In the past, the IDF spokesman claimed this security was provided because Livni is cultivating the site “legally.”

However, documents provided to Haaretz show that Livni is now cultivating the land illegally.

Civil Administration documents show that in 1981 the plot of land was allocated by the Trustee of Abandoned Government Property to the Cooperative Association of Sadeh Calev. The contract expired in December of 2003 and was not renewed. Nevertheless, the Civil Administration did not bother to remove Livni from the property nor to extend his contract and charge him for leasing it, as is customary.

Now, in the wake of a petition to the High Court of Justice filed by Palestinian farmers who are demanding protection similar to that given to Livni, it emerges that the state has also compensated Livni for damages caused to him by thefts and vandalism, even though he is holding the land without authorization.

Between 2000 and 2009, the property tax authority compensated Livni to the tune of NIS 1,327,123. Livni is now pursuing a court case in the Jerusalem Magistrates Court against the state, in which he is claiming negligence on the part of the police in investigating his complaints, for which he is requesting additional payments.

“I am on the land with a permit and I have invested a lot of money in it,” Livni has told Haaretz in response. “I want to renew the contract and there is an argument with the administration about whether the contract will be with the Settlement Department [of the Jewish Agency] or with me personally. There is a dispute between the administration and the Settlement Department. And as a result of the dispute, I am prepared to pay for a lease for the past 10 years. But the property tax authorities haven't paid me all my damages. Sometimes it pays and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Livni, along with Shaul Nir and Uzi Sharbav, was found guilty of perpetrating a 1983 shooting and hand grenade attack on the Islamic College of Hebron, which killed three students and wounded 33. After being sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the attack and attempted assassinations of Palestinian officials, President Chaim Herzog commuted the sentences of the three men and ordered their release in 1990, after serving less than seven years.

Menachem Livni, right, guiding Gideon Sa'ar, left, in a 2011 visit to Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum