Israel Selling Nearly 10K Acres of Land
by Hillel Fendel 7/15/09
(IsraelNN.com) The land reform bill has passed a special Knesset subcommittee vote, and is to be voted on this coming Monday. Nearly 10,000 acres will be sold...
MK Shelly Yechimovitch (Labor), a strong opponent of privatization in general and of this bill in particular, lamented that "such a fundamental matter was rammed through" with such a paucity of public debate.
ARE YOU ASKING YOURSELVES WHY THIS BILL IS BEING RAMMED THROUGH SO QUICKLY? THIS IS A MAJOR DISASTER AND A MAJOR BETRAYAL: PLEASE READ ON: IT HAS TO DO WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AGAIN, I AM QUITE SURE OF IT!
After sending out the information about the bilateral commission meeting,, something became obvious to me, which was not until I saw this article.
Look at the date of the bilateral commission meeting: July 9th, the day before Obama met the pope, and during the G8 meeting.
Now think what else happened that week-end, ON THE 13th, to be exact, 4 days later:
NETANYAHU PUSHES THE LAND REFORM DEAL THROUGH, just days after intense negotiations with the Vatican about the CHURCH PROPERTIES, and after working through the night: what is the great rush? Who is pushing him to do this???
I think this is a SCAM, A FACADE, A BACKDOOR ENTRY FOR THE CHURCH TO BUY UP ITS PROPERTIES.
BY MAKING OWNERSHIP POSSIBLE FOR ALL, IT OF COURSE MAKES OWNERSHIP BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH POSSIBLE AS WELL.
THIS IS A ROUNDABOUT WAY TO GET WHAT THEY WANT, BY DISGUISING THE INITIATIVE AS SOMETHING DONE FOR THE GOOD OF ALL.
TO MY OPINION, THIS IS ANOTHER DECEPTION.
I DON'T THINK ANYBODY SAW THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE BILATERAL NEGOTIATIONS, AND THE LAND REFORM, SO FAR.
SEE HOW OBAMA AND THE POPE ARE INVOLVED, REMEMBER THAT BIBI IS A CFR MEMBER, AND WILL DO WHAT THE CFR WANTS.
ONCE MORE, WE'VE BEEN HAD.
THIS HAS TO BE OPPOSED WITH FULL FORCE, SO THE CHURCH DOESN'T GET THIS WAY WHAT IT COULDN'T GET THE OTHER WAY.
AND NOW WE UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HALACHAH IS ALL ABOUT, WE HAD FORGOTTEN IT, EVEN THOUGH WE DEALT WITH THIS ONLY WEEKS AGO!!!
1.With the ILA reform, PM can finally point to an achievement
RON FRIEDMAN , THE JERUSALEM POST
After caving to pressures on both the economic and diplomatic fronts, Binyamin Netanyahu finally has an achievement he can feel proud of.
Following hours of marathon deliberations that carried on until 2 a.m. Monday, the Knesset's Economic Affairs Committee succeeded in passing the Israel Land Administration reform plan, one of Netanyahu's major campaign promises. From there it goes to the Knesset floor where it will in all probability be passed along with the rest of the budget.
All along, Netanyahu and his backers have argued that the imputes for the plan was to restructure the ILA and turn it into a more efficient body, one that could focus on its main task of making the state's land available for development, instead of having to sign off on every homeowner's application to add a room or close off a balcony.
But the structural change was only a small part of the overall reform plan. In truth, Netanyahu would have faced little opposition if it ended there. There are few in Israel that hold any affection for the ultra-bureaucratic body. The real change that the law saw through is the allowance of private ownership of Israeli land.
Since its inception it has been state policy not to sell land outright to homeowners.
"The ownership of Israel lands, being the lands in Israel of the state, the Development Authority or the Keren Kayemet Le-Israel [the Jewish National Fund], shall not be transferred either by sale or in any other manner," according to the basic law regarding Israel lands that was pushed through by David Ben Gurion in 1960.
Instead, buyers are allowed to lease the land for a period of 49 years, with an option to extend the lease almost automatically. The rationale for state ownership of 93% of the total land area has always been that is a key instrument for achieving the country's territorial and demographic stabilization.
In recent years, the justification of state-owned land has been eroded. Critics said that it was an outmoded system that did nothing but contribute to bureaucracy and raise real estate prices. One of Netanyahu's campaign promises was to reform the ILA to reduce housing costs and spur a building boom, creating jobs and generating economic growth.
The government authorized the land reform in April, shortly after being sworn in. The plan was then included in the 2009-2010 economic arrangements bill.
That's when the issue became toxic.
Land ownership is important everywhere, but in a country as small as Israel, with its significant demographic concerns, it becomes critical. The plan was immediately attacked by critics from all across the political spectrum. Environmentalists, Zionists, socialists, farmers, Arabs, and the religious, all saw the reform as a disaster and viewed the attempt to pass it under the auspices of the economic arrangements bill as an underhanded political ploy.
Though for widely different reasons and propped by often opposing ideologies, all the critics decried the privatization of state lands as a historic tragedy. Doomsday scenarios were raised of the land being purchased by Saudi Arabian oil magnates or ending up in the hands of a small cabal of real estate tycoons.
Conferences were held, temporary coalitions were formed, speeches were made in the Knesset plenum and committees, a protest group with the unwieldy name The Core of the Fight Against the Privatization of the Land in Israel was even formed especially to battle the reform.
Whether as a result of the public indignation, or for reasons of his own, Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin decided that it was improper for the reform plan to remain part of the economic arrangements bill and ordered a special Knesset subcommittee to be formed under the auspices of the Economic Affairs Committee to address the reform separately.
The split turned out to be merely virtual, as it was made clear that the law had to pass through the committee before the budget was voted on in the Knesset. Thus began days of deliberations with the committee hearing testimonies by dozens of experts, officials and special interest groups. Altogether the committee spent nearly 50 hours debating the points.
For the critics it wasn't enough. They felt that giving the deliberations a time limit meant that the coalition members were going in with their minds made up and that the whole debate was a sham.
Opposition members did their best to delay the voting, introducing reservation after reservation and drawing out every point to the utmost.
But when the voting finally started it became clear that coalition members weren't swayed by the antics and outvoted the opposition time after time.
The few changes that were introduced to the law proposal, for the most part came from committee chairman Carmel Shama from the Likud. As he had the automatic support of the other coalition members from the Likud, Shas, UTJ and Israel Beiteinu, his compromise suggestions passed largely un-debated and uncontested. Thus the ability to sell land to private owners was ultimately limited to an area of 800,000 dunams, which make up 3.65% of the total land available, whereas the original proposal had no limit whatsoever.
What was perhaps the biggest challenge to the reform took place outside the committee. Members of the agricultural communities, the kibbutzim and moshavim, were able to recruit Labor bigwigs Shalom Simhon and Ehud Barak to their cause, and thus managed to make sure that the reform, which originally wasn't supposed to include land in rural villages, would benefit them as well. According to insiders, Barak threatened Netanyahu with a coalition crisis and the latter agreed to include the farmers.
At the end of the day, the approval of the reform plan was a tribute to coalition loyalty. After passing in committee, the bill will be voted on by the plenum alongside the rest of the budget, where it will in all likelihood pass.
After folding on the fruit and vegetable VAT tax and waffling on a two-state solution, Netanyahu finally has a real achievement under his belt. As a result of the reform, 808,000 people who currently lease the land will turn into its owners, the ILA will be dismantled and replaced by a more efficient organization, the government will have a deciding majority in the land administration council, the new authority's steering body and Israelis will be able to close off their porches with slightly less bureaucracy.
2.Israel National News:
Opposition is Still Strong
MKs such as Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home), Shelly Yechimovitch (Labor) and others still object to the law, however. Orlev said the Land of Israel should not be sold, period. He is backed up by a Halakhic [Jewish legal] opinion issued this week by Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger stating that it is forbidden to enable the Land of Israel to be sold permanently to foreigners.
Uri Bank, of the National Union party, said that though public pressure led to the placing of a limit in the current bill, "this leaves a breach for enabling the sale of more and more land in the future. It could very well be that once these 800,000 dunams are sold, the Knesset will be asked to approve another 800,000."
"In the past," Bank said, "when the Jubilee was in force and land was never sold for more than 49 years at a time, privatization was not a bad idea. But now we have no Jubilee; why should the Land of Israel be divided into privately-owned pieces? Not to mention that Arab interests can easily form straw companies to buy up the Land of Israel."
3.Gov't passes bulk of ILA land reform plan
Rebecca Anna Stoil and Ron Friedman , THE JERUSALEM POST
Opposition MKs on the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee did everything in their power to thwart approval of the government's bill to reform the Israel Lands Administration on Sunday. But despite their best efforts, the bulk of the program's clauses were approved for inclusion in the Economics Arrangements Bill that the full Knesset is to vote on later this week.
The committee was still voting on the clauses, one by one, at press time.
Over hours of argument and debate, intermingled with bouts of shouting and jest that carried on until late at night, opposition lawmakers tried to stymie the bill that aims to restructure the ILA and at the same time replace the situation in which individuals lease ILA land for 49 years with one where they can own the property in perpetuity.
The drama started when first thing in the morning, committee members found a new version of the bill on the table, featuring both clauses that were added over the weekend and some whose wording was altered. Lawmakers who oppose the plan expressed anger that they didn't have time to study the new clauses and weren't given the opportunity to debate them within their factions.
"Never has such an extensive law been passed in such a rushed and slipshod manner," Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich said.
"It's a circus," said Kadima MK Nachman Shai. "Most of the representatives don't even now what they're voting for. We were told that there would be a serious debate, but coalition members are raising their hands automatically, without even debating the points of our objections."
Opposition MKs and Yachimovich, who though she belongs to the coalition has surfaced as a staunch opponent of the reform, attempted to filibuster the committee, raising objections to every single clause starting from the wording of the bill's title. As the day wore on it became apparent that voting was split along strict party lines, with the seven coalition MKs out voting the five opposition legislators time after time.
Those who oppose the land reform represent a variety of interests and objectives. MKs from parties as ideologically opposed as Habayit Hayehudi and United Arab List-Ta'al found themselves voting identically, though for very different reasons.
"The partnership between us exists only insofar as we all understand the ideological, political and historical significance of this plan, while the government is trying to wrap everything up under the premise of economic efficiency and reducing bureaucracy," said MK Haneen Zoabi from Balad.
Another point of contention was the meaning of the passage from the book of Leviticus that says, "And the land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. (23:25)."
The sides each have rabbis who interpret the passage differently. Those against the reform cite Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, who said it is a clear prohibition against selling Israeli land, while those who back it refer to the edict of Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who said that since the tradition of Jubilee is no longer practiced, the passage had no bearing on the situation.
In the early afternoon, after a visit from Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias of Shas, coalition representatives in the committee expressed confidence that as a result of a series of compromises, there was strong likelihood that the bill would be passed in committee and placed on the Knesset floor by 11 a.m Monday morning.
A source close to the negotiations behind the scenes said that a compromise was likely on two troublesome clauses - that some of the land turned over to the ILA would be dedicated to affordable housing for young couples, and that the proportion of state-held lands turned over for development would not exceed 3-5 percent. The opposition had insisted that no more than 1% be turned over, while the original text of the reform bill had left the amount entirely open.
In the afternoon, it had seemed that a behind the scene agreement had been reached regarding agricultural land upon which farmers had built their homes. Despite the initial support of Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon for the proposed compromise, sources close to the negotiation said that internal Labor Party politics had derailed the deal, with high-level party officials putting the kibosh on it at the last minute.
Labor ultimately decided to refer the internal division to its regularly-scheduled faction meeting on Monday, delaying the party's decision on how to vote on the problematic clause.
In the committee, it was decided to parcel off those deliberations that dealt with the agricultural sector for another time and to push ahead to pass the rest of the clauses.
As the day wore on, it became clear that nothing would stop the deliberations and the lawmakers prepared for a long night.
Likud MK Ophir Akunis blamed the opposition members for the delays. "Up until now we have only been dealing with issues that on the surface are the least problematic ones, the ones that deal with the administrative side of the reform, issues they [the opponents of the reform] said they agree to. It is clear that all the objections have been politically, not ideologically, motivated."
As the night wore on and the speakers lost their zeal, the proceedings moved along more rapidly. Late last night, the committee was debating article 13 out of 34.
4.» 07/06/2009 11:40
VATICAN - ISRAEL
Holy See-Israel dialogue on the eve of meeting between the Pope and Obama
by Arieh Cohen
The Bilateral Commission will meet July 9. The U.S. administration has long been concerned with the resolution of problems in relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See, which perhaps will be a topic at the meeting between Barack Obama and Benedict XVI. Father Jaeger is cautious but optimistic.
Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) - The Bilateral Permanent Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel, the first since the Pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI, will take place at Israel's Foreign Ministry next Thursday, 9 July. There has been no official announcement, but it is already known in ecclesiastical and diplomatic circles. Is it purely by chance that this will be the day before U.S. President Barack Obama will be received in Audience by the Supreme Pontiff in the Vatican? Probably not.
At least since 2003-2004, Israel is particularly aware of the support of the United States for the hopes of the Catholic Church to enjoy legal and fiscal security in Israel. This indeed is the purpose the negotiations underway since 11 March 1999. Many times since then, members and staff of the U.S. Congress, but also American officials and diplomats have interceded – though always kindly and in friendliest fashion, as appropriate between friends – in order to encourage successive Israeli governments to a more exact observance of the Agreements already made with the Holy See (in 1993 and 1997, respectively), and especially in order to recommend greater engagement in the current negotiations.
The United States have a special interest in the matter, not only because of their role in persuading the Holy See to establish official relations with Israel even before securing the situation of the Church in the Jewish State, but also because a very high portion of the offerings that sustain the Church in the Holy Land are made by U.S. citizens-taxpayers-voters of Catholic faith.
The tensions that have emerged on occasion between the Church's hierarchy and the Obama Administration (over such ethically sensitive matters as legalised abortion, the use of embryos for research and the like) can only contribute to increasing this interest of the present U.S. Government, which is probably looking for ways to increase and consolidate the esteem of the Church in its regard. In fact, seasoned observers suggest, it is possible that the relations between the Catholic Church and the State of Israel will rate a mention in the talks in the Vatican on 10 July. Such a possibility can only be helpful to the renewed Holy See – Israel talks to take place on the day before. But the road to agreement may still not be a short one.
The Agreement that the Parties committed themselves to reaching (as long ago as 1993), on fiscal and property matters, is defined by them as a "comprehensive" one. Its elements are by now more than well known: Safeguarding Church property, especially the Holy Places; a guarantee of due process for the Church; a fiscal régime that will recognise and reconfirm the rights the Church had already acquired by the time of the creation of the State of Israel; social security for clergy and religious.
Contacted by AsiaNews at his university office in Rome, Franciscan Father David-Maria Jaeger, an expert on Church-State relations in Israel, prudently abstains from any comment on these subjects. He limits himself rigorously to the suggestions he says he offers any and all journalists who ask him to shed light on the matter: "The safe way to evaluate the progress of the negotiations is to follow attentively the Joint Communiqués usually issued at the end of the bilateral meetings, in order to see how much time is being dedicated to the negotiations. The more the Commission meets, the more probable and the nearer the Agreement".
"In my view – he adds – this principle is always valid, and not only in this case: By negotiating everything can be resolved, while nothing can be resolved by not negotiating." Is Father optimistic?
"As a Christian believer and as a Franciscan, I have a vocation to optimism", Father Jaeger answers. He adds: "It seems that too much work has already been invested in this for the Parties not to do everything possible to reach the Agreement."
If Father Jaeger is right, much will be able to be learnt from the schedule of meetings for the next few months, which – if it follows precedent – the Commission may publish at the end of the 9 July meeting (until now only the date of the next Plenary is known, 10 December this year).
Except, of course, for surprises.
5.Bilateral Commission makes public list of upcoming meetings till December.
The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel has met today, July 9th 2009, at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to continue the negotiations on the 'Economic Agreement'.
The talks took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality, and the Delegations believe they have contributed to taking the talks forward towards the desired Agreement.
The next meetings of the Commission will be on: August 26th; September 15-16; October 14-15; November 11-12. As already announced, the next Plenary Commission will meet on December 10th, 2009, in the Vatican."
Last night, in Israel, the Permanent Bilateral Working Commission between the State of Israel and the Holy See met the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to continue their negotiations for an "economic agreement". The joint release has been disclosed today by the Vatican Newsroom, but yesterday it had already been disclosed by the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See. "Dialogue took place in a very friendly atmosphere, and the delegations believe they have contributed to making progress towards a longed-for agreement", the release states. The next meetings of the Commission are due to take place on August 26th, October 14th and 15th, November 11th and 12th. As announced, the next plenary session of the Commission will be convened on December 10th 2009 in the Vatican.
7.17:58 - BENEDICT XVI: THE FIRST MEETING IN THE VATICAN WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA