Ex-minister Rubinstein: State Should Reclaim Land Given to JNF

Legal expert makes proposal in order to prevent passing of racist legislation which limits land to Jews.

Former education minister and legal expert Amnon Rubinstein has proposed that the state reclaim all property granted to the Jewish National Fund in order to avoid passing racist legislation that would limit the use of these lands to Jews. Currently, the JNF controls 13 percent of state lands.

Rubinstein's proposal, made to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, recommends that a distinction be made between JNF lands and state lands, with the organization returning all state lands in return for being allowed to manage the properties under its control "in line with national interests." As an example of such "national interest," he proposes that JNF lands be used for housing projects for discharged soldiers.

The former minister is proposing to put an end to the current situation, in which JNF lands are managed by the Israel Lands Administration. He says that only properties acquired through Jewish Diaspora contributions should be brought under JNF control.

Rubinstein's proposal follows a bill, which passed its preliminary reading, that restricts the leasing of JNF lands to Jews. The bill is based on the argument that since the JNF lands were acquired with contributions made by the Jewish Diaspora, these constitute "private property of the Jewish people." The bill was prepared in order to bypass a Supreme Court ruling that barred the JNF from discriminating against non-Jews in its leasing of property.

The JNF is a private company established at the start of the 20th century to acquire property in Palestine for the purpose of creating a Jewish national home.

If Rubinstein's proposal is accepted, some 900,000 dunams will pass to the direct control of the JNF, while two million dunams of "lands of missing persons" - property belonging to Palestinian refugees and purchased by the JNF from the state in the 1950s - will revert to the state.

According to Rubinstein, if the bill authorizing JNF to "discriminate in favor of Jews" is passed, Israel's international standing will be seriously tarnished, and it will contradict the basic constitutional principles of the state, especially the Basic Law on Human Dignity.