Jewish National Fund: Less Money for Forestation, More for Accounting

A number of JNF directors have expressed concern over the cutbacks’ effect on development and the environment. One of them even quit.

Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Jewish National Fund is expected to reduce financial allocations to forestation and environment projects and increase funds for accounting, according to the 2016 budget, which the organization’s board of directors is to discuss today.

A number of JNF directors have expressed concern over the cutbacks’ effect on development and the environment. One director quit, warning that the cuts will make it harder to preserve open areas and conduct environmental planning

The new budget stands at some 918 million shekels ($240 million), while the total of the JNF’s expected income is 1.6 billion shekels. As in most years, the JNF’s major income source is money from the Israel Lands Authority, obtained from marketing lands belonging to the fund. In the proposed budget, land deals are estimated to bring some 950 million shekels.

The JNF’s main operative division is its land development administration. Some directors say this body is supposed to receive at least half of the fund’s budget, intended for forestation and helping farming communities to prepare land.

But according to the new proposal, the administration will receive only a third of the budget, which means the money for preparing land will be slashed from 116 million shekels to 82 million. The budget earmarked for forestation, one of the projects most identified with the fund and its environmental activity, will be slashed from almost 90 million shekels to 50 million.

However, the JNF says the forestation budget will ultimately be some 77 million shekels, due to funds that weren’t used in previous years.

In the coming years the JNF is expected to engage in forest thinning activities and to set up buffer zones as part of a long term policy to prevent fires from spreading.

The funds allocated for “environment and sustainability,” a project aimed at encouraging activity for environmental protection, was slashed from 5.7 million shekels to 3.2 million. This year 2 million shekels will be allocated to help alternative energy projects. The money earmarked to advance bicycle riding, a showcase project for the JNF, is only 200,000 shekels.

In contrast, the funds for education and youth have almost been doubled and are 83 million shekels. The financial department’s budget will also increase considerably, from 41.8 million shekels to 59 million.

The money for funding the JNF’s envoys this year will be 13,8 million. The budget for the chairman, associate chairman and CEO’s offices will total 7.6 million shekels, including wages.

The JNF is in charge of more than a million dunams of woodlands countrywide. Its forestation activities consist of planning new projects and maintaining existing forests.

A number of JNF directors recently expressed concern over the planned cutbacks in funds intended for environmental issues. Professor Alon Tal, who recently retired from the board of directors, said before he stepped down that he feared the budget cuts would make it difficult to carry out environmental research and planning, preserving open areas and biological variety and assisting other environmental organizations.