Adalah and ACRI call to cancel discriminatory land swap agreement between Israeli government and the JNF

Adalah & ACRI: The JNF's loyalty is not and cannot be for the benefit of the Israeli public; its principles prevent the transfer of land rights to non-Jewish people.

Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) sent a letter on 30 December 2015 to the Finance Minister, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) and the Attorney General (AG) demanding the cancellation of an agreement of principles for the exchange of land between the Israeli government and Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 2009. The letter comes in the context of the signing of a comprehensive contract between the Israeli government and the JNF in November 2015, pursuant to the 2009 agreement.


According to the agreement, the JNF would cede control of developed land in the center of the country, and in exchange, the ILA would give the JNF ownership of lands in the Negev (Naqab) and the Galilee territory. The agreement provides that the Israeli government is committed to, "preserving the principles of Jewish National Fund, including the ownership of land."


Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara and ACRI Attorney Raghad Jeraisy argue in the letter that, "According to the JNF, its principles prevent the transfer of land rights to non-Jewish people." These principles substantially contradict the duty of the ILA, which as a state agency, is to work for equality for all citizens of the state in the distribution of land resources and without racial discrimination.


JNF representatives have stated before the Israeli Supreme Court, in the context of hearings on petitions challenging an ILA policy preventing Palestinian citizens of Israel from participating in bids to purchase land owned by the JNF, that, "The JNF's loyalty is not and cannot be for the benefit of the Israeli public…The JNF is forbidden to allocate lands for all the state's citizens." The JNF claims that its right to allocate lands only to Jews derives from the fact that the lands owned by the JNF were purchased with the funds of Jews, for Jews.


Adalah and ACRI contend that with this agreement, the ILA violates the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and breaches its obligations of proper public administration as well as the principles of equality, fairness and the equitable division of land resources in the country.


Adalah and ACRI argue that the land swap between the state and the JNF is a legal maneuver to make an end run around previous Israeli Supreme Court decisions that held that the state cannot transfer land resources to entities in order to pursue discriminatory policies that the state itself may not engage in. According to the human rights organizations, the Supreme Court issued decisions in the past to prevent the state ridding itself of the legal responsibilities to pursue equality, by outsourcing these resources to a third party to perform discriminatory tasks. In addition, part of the land to be transferred from the JNF to the ILA has already been marketed to Jewish citizens, and will not only benefit Arab citizens of Israel.


Thus, Adalah and ACRI demand that the ILA-JNF land swap agreement be cancelled immediately.


Citations to pending Supreme Court petitions on these issues:

HCJ 9205/04, Adalah v. The Israel Lands Administration, et. al.;  and

HCJ 9010/04, The Arab Center for Alternative Planning, et. al. v. The Israel Lands Administration, et. al. (filed by ACRI)


See also:

Adalah and ACRI’s letter against the ILA-JNF land swap deal in 2009, here in English.

Adalah, Makan – The Right to the City, Spring 2006 with excerpts from Adalah’s Supreme Court petition challenging the ILA’s policies concerning JNF-controlled lands, and excerpts from the response by the JNF.