Liberal JNF Board Members Challenge Its West Bank Land Purchases

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The settlement of Efrat.
The settlement of Efrat. Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

Board members of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund who are opposed to its West Bank land purchases are demanding that the organization provide documents that show the extent of those purchases and the money trails behind them.

The demand was made in a letter sent Sunday to KKL-JNF chairman Avraham Duvdevani signed by the Reform Movement, the Conservative Movement, Meretz, Yesh Atid, Kahol Lavan, the Labor Party and other organizations. Following the letter, KKL-JNF management announced that a meeting scheduled for Monday on transactions in the West Bank had been canceled.

Jerusalem-based Keren Kayemeth is a separate organization from the Jewish National Fund in the United States.

Duvdevani is seeking to formalize controversial land purchases in the West Bank. Later this week, on Thursday, the board is set to hold a meeting on a new JNF policy allowing it to purchase land in the West Bank.

In the letter sent to Duvdevani, opponents of this idea demanded that the meeting be postponed until they receive the documents they requested, and threatened to get a court injunction if they do not receive them by Monday afternoon.

On Sunday, through a law firm, KKL-JNF refused the request to postpone the meeting but stated that the next meeting would not deal with the controversial land transactions. If the new policy is approved, the board of directors would be asked to authorize the management of the organization to consider the transactions, the response stated.

The land purchases were made by KKL-JNF subsidiary Himnuta Jerusalem. Since 2017, Himnuta has spent around 100 million shekels ($30 million) buying West Bank land. The money was allegedly diverted from the budget earmarked for buying land in “Jerusalem and the periphery,” without this fact being reported to the relevant KKL-JNF institutions. These purchases were the focus of a report by attorney Yehoshua Lemberger about the way KKL-JNF bought West Bank land behind the board’s back. The purchases were first revealed by Channel 13 journalist Raviv Drucker.

In his audit report from last year, Lemberger criticized former KKL-JNF chairman Danny Atar for not reporting the West Bank transactions to the executive committee even though he knew about them, because the issue “hadn’t penetrated his consciousness.” The report identified the people responsible for making and concealing the purchases as Arnan Felman, a member of the current executive committee; Nachi Eyal, who formerly served on the boards of both Himnuta and KKL-JNF; Himnuta CEO Alex Hefeitz; and Shoshi Taragin, former deputy legal adviser for KKL-JNF and now its acting legal adviser.

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