JERUSALEM (Feb. 18)
The Jewish National Fund is embroiled in a controversy with the Israel government over the latter’s plan to make State-owned and JNF lands available for sale. Herman L. Weisman, president of the JNF of America, claimed at a news conference here yesterday that the government’s proposal amounted to a “breach of trust” and was vigorously opposed by the JNF. The JNF, the land acquisition and reclamation agency of the World Zionist Movement, was founded 70 years ago and ranks second only to the government as the largest landholder in Israel. The JNF operates on the principle that the land of Israel is the “property of the Jewish people” and can never be sold. Occupants of JNF land hold leases which must be renewed every 49 years. A 1960 act by the Knesset applied the same non-saleable principle to State-owned land. But the government is now trying to have the act rescinded. The matter has been under discussion in the Land Administration Authority, a joint government-JNF body on which the government has seven representatives, including the chairman, Minister of Agriculture Chaim Gvati, and the JNF six. The Authority can alter the landholding principle by simple majority vote. Weisman claimed that converting the land from leasehold to freehold would encourage land speculation and profiteering. He said the sale of the land would not bring in the large sums of money originally anticipated by the government planners.