JNF Directors Ask to Overturn Vote to Allocate Funds for West Bank Land Purchases

Five of the 32 directors claim the organization's chairman silenced criticism and provided incorrect data during the contentious vote

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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The West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, in June.
The West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, in June. Credit: Emil Salman
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

Five of the 32 members of the Jewish National Fund's board of directors are demanding that the organization rescind the Thursday vote to allocate funds to purchase West Bank land.

How the JNF's Blue Box settled beyond the Green Line - LISTEN

The board members claim that there were "fundamental flaws in the conduct" of JNF chairman Avraham Duvdevani during the vote.

The board approved on Thursday the allocation of 38 million shekels ($11.6 million) to buy land in the West Bank by one vote. The organization, which is also known by its Hebrew name Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and which is separate from JNF in the United States, has not yet made a final policy decision, however, to permit the organization to purchase land in the West Bank, which is beyond Israel's sovereign borders.

The five board members who urged the vote be overturned are Haim Cohen, the representative of the World Sephardi Federation; Daniel Avidor of Kahol Lavan; Ronit Boytner of the Israel Movement for Reform Judaism; Rani Trainin of Meretz; and Gadi Perl, the representative of the Conservative movement.

They sent a letter on Friday to Duvdevani and the Registrar of Associations Karen Schwartz, asking to cancel the vote and hold a new discussion on the matter. They said that during the meeting, held over Zoom, Duvdevani ordered to mute board members who argued with him, refused to answer questions, and, when he did answer, provided false information to the participants. These events, they said, present "A problematic chain of events."

The letter continued, "Before the conversation, information was withheld from the board of directors, something that 'prevented them from overseeing the affairs of the company as required of them.'"

They added that board members "Were silenced when their questions bothered" Duvdevani, thus "preventing a conversation on proposals to minimize the damage."

Duvdevani replied in a statement: "It is not befitting for me to respond before I issue my response to those who sent the letter."

Last week, a smaller group of JNF leadership voted to support purchasing land for the benefit of the Jewish settlement enterprise. The proposal passed by a narrow margin of six in favor and five against and is supposed to be subject to approval by the board of directors after the Knesset election. Thursday's vote approved the allocation of funds, but only on condition that the board of directors approves a change in policy regarding the organization's West Bank activities.

The JNF's board of directors is made up of representatives of political parties and organizations. The representatives of center-left parties and the organizations associated with them opposed holding the vote in part because of its timing in the run-up to the March 23 election.

To the surprise of many, among the board members who voted to allocate funds to land purchases were the representatives of the international Na'amat women's Zionist organization and the Maccabi World Union. Both groups are identified abroad with progressive streams of the Jewish world.

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