Non-Jews can lease JNF land

The Jewish National Fund told Israel’s High Court on Monday it will lease land to non-Jews.

The court delayed a ruling for three months on whether the JNF should be obligated to lease land to non-Jews in order to give the organization time to reach an agreement with state Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

In the meantime, the JNF and the Israel Lands Authority agreed to formalize an interim land-swap agreement wherein the JNF will be compensated with land from the ILA whenever the JNF leases land to non-Jews. This arrangement ensures that the amount of Jewish-owned land in Israel remains the same, a spokeswoman for JNF told JTA.

JNF owns 13 percent of Israel’s land, or about 650,000 acres, some in high population areas.

The High Court case stems from a petition filed in 2004 by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Adalah said it would appeal JNF’s about-face Monday and instead seek a precedent-setting ruling to cement the JNF’s obligation to lease land on a religion-blind basis.

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