Settler motion takes over Jewish National Fund

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Feb 23, 2021

“It’s quite possible that, until two days ago, [President Joe] Biden had no idea what the Jewish National Fund is. Now, however, the old, established organization has turned itself into a major nuisance for his presidential agenda.” With this sarcastic word, Alon Pinkas, the previous Israeli consul common in New York, concluded an article he wrote for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that was revealed Feb. 14.

His remarks referred to a dramatic resolution made by the group, which was created in 1901 with the mission of buying lands for Jews to settle in Ottoman Palestine. Over the years, and after the institution of the state of Israel, it continued to buy land all through the nation for Jewish settlement (versus West Bank settlements). Today, the Jewish National Fund owns 15% of all of the land in Israel. Throughout its historical past, the fund raised cash from wealthy Jewish donors throughout the Diaspora, who regarded its mission as a worthy act essential to “redeem” the Land of Israel.

Once the State of Israel was created, the Jewish National Fund grew to become a robust arm of the ruling center-left Mapai social gathering (later Labor) and an icon for events on the Israeli left. As right-wing rule grew to become more and more entrenched over the past decade, the fund was a significant enviornment for political and ideological clashes between the 2 conflicting worldviews. Representatives of the appropriate within the group’s governing our bodies gained an increasing number of management over the group, with the objective of taking all the pieces the fund had achieved till then far beneath the radar (by way of a subsidiary firm) into official Jewish National Fund coverage. As of this month, it has develop into a company dedicated to the development of Jewish settlement within the West Bank.

This dramatic shift culminated with a proper resolution made Feb. 14 by the fund’s government board. It modified the group’s official coverage and reorganized its exercise within the West Bank. This included increasing efforts to buy land there for the aim of Jewish settlement.

According to those adjustments, the fund would buy non-public land as a part of its “redemption of the land” coverage, with a desire given to properties in main areas of Jewish settlement: Gush Etzion, the Jordan Valley, the realm surrounding Jerusalem, the Benjamin area, southern Mount Hebron and alongside Highway 5 and the Green Line.

This is a gigantic victory for the settlers. From now on, they’ve a gentle foothold within the “Holy of Holies” of historic Jewish settlement within the Land of Israel. The final image of pioneering and build up the nation and of the left’s previous glory has been was an government arm of the settler motion. The resolution revealed what everybody already knew: The Jewish National Fund (JNF) had was a right-wing, pro-settler group.

Inevitably, the choice was celebrated by the leaders of the settler motion and their representatives within the Knesset. The head of the Religious Zionism social gathering, Bezalel Smotrich, tweeted, “Excellent! This was one of our demands in the coalition agreements for national institutions. Finally, the JNF is back to its old self, focusing on its historic role: redeeming the Land of Israel for Jewish settlement. This is Zionism 2021.”

How does this impression Biden? While his official overseas coverage doesn’t appear to prioritize diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians, the White House can’t ignore this relatively “esoteric” resolution made in some distant nook of the Middle East by an antiquated, archaic group. Why? Because the choice itself is dangerous to any efforts to reach a “two-state solution,” which is a part of the general imaginative and prescient for the area, as expressed by Biden and his new administration. Whether the president agrees or not, the Jewish National Fund resolution has develop into his headache.

And his administration responded accordingly. Even earlier than the provocative resolution was finalized and formalized, the State Department issued formal criticism of the move. State Department spokesman Ned Price stated, “We believe it is critical to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.” He stated such steps may embody the “annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence [and] the provision of compensation for individuals in prison for acts of terrorism.”

Reform Jews within the United States, who’ve a consultant on the Jewish National Fund board, additionally tried to dam the initiative earlier than it was formally accredited. A press release launched within the identify of the Union for Reform Judaism chief, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, stated his motion opposes the growth of the settlements as a result of it places the potential of a two-state resolution in danger. “We love and support the Jewish and democratic State of Israel which is why we will continue to strongly oppose policies that undermine the safety, security and moral character of our Jewish homeland.”

Jacobs made it completely clear that the Reform motion doesn’t intend to face idly by. It plans to pursue completely different political and authorized channels, and to recruit the Jewish neighborhood to battle this resolution. He added that the timing of the choice, simply after Biden entered workplace, may pose a threat to the nice relationships Biden is attempting to construct.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz additionally tried to dam the choice. He appealed to fund Chairman Avraham Duvdevani (who’s recognized with the right-wing and non secular Zionist camps) in a letter, saying the choice was “especially sensitive” and that its impression must be thought of “because it could have international implications in terms of the relationship between Israel and the Biden Administration and between Israel and the Diaspora.”

But, as seen, the strain and condemnations had no impression. The resolution was made. If Benjamin Netanyahu actually wished to cease it, he may have achieved so simply, however that’s the very last thing the prime minister would do one month earlier than an election when he so desperately wants each vote on the appropriate. At the identical time, Netanyahu can also be signaling to Biden that regardless of the chilly reception he appears to be receiving from the White House, he doesn’t intend to bend, definitely not now, after the International Criminal Court within the Hague dominated that it might permit an investigation into Israel’s actions within the West Bank. Politically, the Jewish National Fund resolution really serves Netanyahu’s pursuits as chief of the appropriate.

Another individual alarmed by the choice however unable to cease it’s Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a consultant of the Reform motion on the Board of the World Zionist Organization and a Labor social gathering candidate for the Knesset. “This is a significant threat to our national institutions in general and the Jewish National Fund in particular,” he stated. “The far right is continuing its incessant efforts to establish facts on the ground, which will impede any progress on the diplomatic front.”

Meretz social gathering chair Nitzan Horowitz additionally acknowledged the ominous nature of the choice. “The right is turning the Jewish National Fund into the Settlement National Fund. The JNF is not some company charged with destroying a potential political solution and any chance for peace that comes with it,” he tweeted.

The downside is that political circumstances should not appearing within the curiosity of anybody against the choice. All polls present that the center-left events will undergo a thrashing within the upcoming election and that their illustration within the Knesset will hit one other low.