Knesset to Vote on Selling State Lands in Israel
(Israelnationalnews.com) The Knesset is set to vote Monday on the land reform package, which includes the sale of 800 square kilometers (308 square miles) of state-owned land to private hands.
The reforms also include the dissolution of the Israel Lands Authority, which has long handled – with great bureaucracy – everything having to do with the long-term leasing, development and improvements to state-owned lands and the structures built there.
Some 650 people from various environmental and social groups demonstrated on Sunday night outside the Knesset against the bill. The protestors represented the entire political spectrum, including Bnei Akiva, the National Union party, the left-wing Young Guard, and more.
Shneller and the Pushke
MK Otniel Shneller (Kadima), a strong opponent of the plan, was thrown out of a Knesset committee meeting on the topic on Monday morning. He was accused of mocking the committee when he circulated among the members with a little blue Jewish National Fund box (pushke) – historically used to collect coins from Jews all over the world to buy land in the Holy Land – to "collect" money from the MKs to ensure that the Western Wall would not be among the sold properties.
Shneller explained that the law is terrible in both its content and its timing: "It allows land to be sold to anyone who is eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, but this can easily be detoured, and if land is in fact sold 'out,' there will be no way to regain it. I begged the Prime Minister to at least ensure that the land is sold only in the Jubilee manner, meaning that after 49 years we can review it, but he refused."
In terms of timing, Shneller said, "We are now about to begin the month of Av, when the Temples were destroyed and we were exiled and our land was transferred into the hands of foreigners. At the same time, the US government brazenly tells us that we cannot even build in our own capital. And this law comes along and does the same thing – giving away our land to others."
Two More Rabbinic Declarations
Two groups of rabbis circulated Halakhic opinions against the sale of lands on Sunday.
The Torah and Land Rabbis Council, headed by Rabbi Zalman Melamed and Rabbi Dov Lior, wrote, "The Council joins the firm declaration issued by the Chief Rabbis of Israel and has instructed the MKs of the National Union party to vote as one against the land-reform law. We also all upon [all] MKs who adhere to the rabbis to oppose the law and to try to persuade others MKs to oppose it as well." The Council rabbis also attempted to prevail upon the rabbis of the hareidi-religious sector to explain to their representatives in the Knesset the severity of supporting this plan from Halakhic, ethical and value-based standpoints.
Also signed on this opinion were Rabbis Yehoshua Shapira, Chaim Shteiner, Yaakov Yosef, and Shmuel Eliyahu. The latter two are sons of former Chief Sephardic Rabbis.
A forum of rabbis associated with another branch of the religious-Zionist public signed a similar call. "We first of all object to the fact that such a process should be taken before a deep and genuine public debate on the matter is held regarding the far-reaching ramifications of this process. In principle, we believe that the process of privatization of lands is essentially opposed to the values of Torah and of the Jewish State. G-d, to Whom the entire Land belongs, gave it as a deposit to the entire Nation of Israel, and not just to one specific family or another. Our [political] struggle to retain the entire land is in order that it remain in the hands of the entire nation, and not in the hands of individuals…"
"In addition, we feel that giving lands to those who have no responsibility or commitment towards the entire populace is a blow to the concepts of justice regarding which G-d has commanded us. Furthermore, this process is actually an act of fraud vis-à-vis all those precious Jews who gave of their money to the Jewish National Fund on behalf of the national revival, and not for the sake of private individuals."
This declaration was signed by Rabbis Shlomo Aviner, David Stav, Yoel Bin-Nun, Elisha Vishlitzky, Eran Tamir, and others.
The Labor Party
MK Shelly Yechimovitch (Labor) will apparently be one of the few members of her party to vote against the plan. She says her opposition is a "first-class ideological struggle and a watershed mark within the Labor Party. The party is being dragged into a process led by Netanyahu – the biggest privatization in the history of the state."
The Labor Party is obligated by its coalition agreement with the Likud to vote in favor of the plan. The hareidi United Torah Judaism party, however, is not – yet it appears that its MKs will vote in favor of the plan, under the impression that the only major change it will effect will be to make it easier for young hareidi-religious couples to purchase apartments. "This," MK Shneller told Israel National News, "despite a Halakhic ruling by the late Rav Yitzchak Yaakov Veiss, head of the Eida Hahareidit, that selling the land is forbidden."
(IsraelNN.com) The Coalition and Opposition agreed Monday evening that the Knesset vote on the Netanyahu regime's land-reform bill will not take place until Wednesday.
Knesset discussion of the bill started Monday evening and will continue Tuesday afternoon.
Protests Continue, but Knesset Expected To Approve Law
Reported: 09:39 AM - Aug/03/09
(IsraelNN.com) Protests against the Lands Authority Reform Bill continued Monday morning but the Knesset is expected to approve the law in a special session later in the day. Activists set out to intersections in Jerusalem selling cups of earth to protest the government’s plan to privatize state land.
In addition, on Sunday night activists held 14 protests on Herzl streets throughout the country. They claimed that Theodore Herzl, the father of the Zionist movement, would not have agreed with the current law.
Knesset Passes Land-Sale Law
Av 13, 5769, 03 August 09 03:50
by Hillel Fendel
(Israelnationalnews.com) The opposition withdrew most of its objections to the Land Reform bill – for tactical reasons – and the Knesset passed an amended bill mandating the sale of 400,000 dunams of the Land of Israel. One thousand dunams equals one square kilometer.
The final vote, which was accomplished by a roll call of each individual Knesset Member by name, was 61-45.
A last-minute compromise between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party, supposedly enabled the Labor Party to vote in favor of the bill and thus remain in the coalition. However, five of Labor’s 13 MKs – MKs Cabel, Yechimovitch, Pines, Peretz, and Tamir - still voted against it. The five represent the hard core of internal party opposition to Labor Chairman Barak, and Tamir intimated on Monday that the five might well split off and form a separate Knesset faction.
MK Yochanan Plesner (Kadima) explained that the opposition had removed its objections from the bill in order that the vote be held "during the day, so that everyone could see how the MKs voted and how the Prime Minister threatened MKs and ministers to vote in accordance with his will."
The law had faced great opposition from various quarters on both right and left. In the end, MKs Zevulun Orlev and Uri Orbach of the Jewish Home voted against, despite the pressure exerted upon them by Netanyahu and the Likud – but Jewish Home leader and Science Minister Daniel Herskovitz voted in favor. Herskovitz, a member of the Cabinet, had planned to absent himself from the vote, but Netanyahu reportedly threatened to fire him if he did not remain in the plenum and vote in favor.
The Jewish Home party explained often that it supported the proposed reforms in the Israel Lands Authority - which the law disbands - but objects to the clause stipulating that parts of the Land of Israel will be sold to individuals.
The hareidi Shas party, a member of the coalition, went along with Netanyahu on the deal, saying it would help free up properties for housing – an issue that greatly concerns the growing hareidi population. Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef stated that the law would not violate the Biblical injunction against selling the Land forever, because the Jubilee year laws do not currently apply. Other leading rabbis, such as Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, stated the opposite, saying not only does the ban apply today, but also that it could lead to a violation of the prohibition to transfer the land to foreigners.
Within the hareidi United Torah Judaism party, MKs Gafni, Mozes, and Makleb were not present for the vote, while MK Meir Porush voted in favor.
The compromise between Netanyahu and Barak means that only 400,000 dunams – 400 square kilometers (155 square miles, nearly 99,000 acres) will be sold by 2014, instead of the 800,000 originally called for. Another 400,000 dunams will be allowed to be sold after 2014. Most of the land to be sold now is filled with apartments that are leased to their occupants for 99 years; the apartments will now be owned by their occupants, thus obviating their need for bureaucratic procedures when they wish to make additions and changes.
Knesset Members of the leading opposition party, Kadima, mocked Herskovitz and Labor MKs when their “yea” votes were recorded, criticizing their apparent cave-in against their oft-stated principles. Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin angrily called for order a number of times, demanding that the Kadima members behave respectfully and not scorn their colleagues.
All and all, it is not as bad as it could have been. It seems that most of the land will go to the owners of the apartments on the land. In fact at least three very good things came out of this.
* The Labor Party is totally finished by this latest split.
* The Israel Lands Authority is dissolved.
* The Jewish Home Party once again shows itself for what it is.