All KKL-JNF land was paid for in full with money contributed by Jews all over the world.
The issue of KKL-JNF land, which has been the subject of extensive debate recently, proves, unfortunately, that some people in this country have short memories. It is sad to see the unbearable ease with which people sling mud at an organization whose signature is all over the State and its history and which, for many people, constitutes a symbol of national unity.
Zionism, which celebrated its hundredth anniversary a number of years ago, again finds itself rejected and under attack by people whose memories have simply let them down. Zionism is not the mark of Cain, and there is no reason why it has to justify itself again in a country that calls itself Jewish and democratic. On the contrary – Zionism and its objectives continue to play a central role in the ideological infrastructure of the State. This is a Jewish State that belongs to the Jewish People and serves as a Jewish center, and it is also the State of all its citizens.
The State may be under an obligation to treat all its citizens equally before the law. Equality is in the interests of Jews and Arabs alike. This common interest makes it incumbent upon the Jewish majority to allow minorities to integrate into the life of the State. The non-Jewish minority, for its part, has to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state and understand that the struggle for equal rights does not entail abrogating the definition of Israel as a Jewish state.
Just as the majority respects the symbols of the minority, so must the minority respect those of the majority. There is no contradiction between the State’s obligation to set a land-use policy based on equality as far as State land is concerned, and the right of the Jewish People to safeguard its assets, which, as we mentioned earlier, have become an essential symbol of its unity.
A state is obliged to abide by the principle of equality but a people does not give up its assets. KKL-JNF is an organization that belongs to the Jewish People and it serves as its trustee for land purchased over the course of a hundred years with money contributed by Jews in Israel and throughout the world. This money was dropped cent by cent into the little blue box. The State of Israel officially recognized KKL-JNF’s unique role in the covenant it signed with the organization in 1961, which granted KKL-JNF special independent status, and thus its ownership of its lands is independent of and separate from the State.
KKL-JNF’s main objective, which is mentioned both in the covenant and in its company regulations, is Jewish settlement – on KKL-JNF land, of course. This goal is a direct extension of the Law of Return, which also applies only to Jews, and it is designed to strengthen the Jewish State.
KKL-JNF belongs to the Jewish People. It came into being at the Zionist Congress and united Diaspora Jews from all over the world. For 2000 years Jews lived scattered in exile, with no property rights and no safe haven, at the mercy of anti-Semitism, massacres, expulsions, riots, pogroms, injustice and discrimination. The establishment of the State of Israel was intended to right the historical injustice perpetrated against the Jewish People.
Every nation deserves to have a country of its own, the Jewish People included. In the sixth decade of its existence, the State of Israel is still in a process of formation. A state in the process of formation has a moral right to take extraordinary measures to ensure its future existence. The Law of Return and specially designated use of the land owned by the Jewish People are two examples of such measures, and their moral admissibility cannot be called into question. Therefore, we must not be ashamed of our ownership of land designated for the purpose of Jewish settlement. The Jewish People has a right to its own land within the Jewish State.
The petitions submitted to the High Court of Justice recently seek to remove KKL-JNF lands from the ownership of the Jewish People and turn them into State land like any other. In other words, the petitioners want the State of Israel to turn its back on KKL-JNF land’s role in the service of the Jewish People over the generations. Dr. Herzl, when he envisioned the Jewish State, most certainly never imagined that one hundred years later, that State’s High Court of Justice would be called upon to express an opinion on the constitutional legitimacy of KKL-JNF’s ownership of its lands as the trustee of the Jewish People.
The existence of land reserves held by the Jewish People in perpetuity and used for purposes of Jewish settlement is a fundamental part of our legal system. If the Jewish State does not permit a Zionist organization to own land and designate it for purposes of developing Jewish settlement, what is the point of its existence? All land owned by KKL-JNF was paid for in full with money contributed by Jews all over the world.
KKL-JNF owns approximately 2.5 million dunam of land (one dunam equals around a quarter of an acre). About one million dunam were acquired by KKL-JNF by means of money contributed by Jews all over the world before the State of Israel was founded. Another million and a quarter dunam of land were purchased by KKL-JNF in the early years of the State and paid for in full, again by means of donations from Jews throughout the world. These were regular property deals in every way, on the strength of which full and complete ownership of this land passed into the hands of KKL-JNF, and the State has no part in it or right of possession over it.
State-owned land, as we pointed out before, must be at the disposal of all citizens. But land owned by KKL-JNF is the property of the Jewish People and is designated for the attainment of its following objectives: ensuring the existence of a Jewish State and strengthening, developing and preserving the Jewish character of that State.
The historical facts have fallen victim to those who promote a "post-Zionist" agenda. These people believe that Israel was presented to the Jewish People on a silver platter, and that the curtain has come down on everything that happened in the past. Unfortunately, however, the struggle to establish the State of Israel as a Jewish state in the Middle East is not over: it has yet to allow Israel to live in peace with its neighbors and enjoy official recognition of its Jewish character. KKL-JNF and its lands are a cornerstone of this struggle.