The Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the State of Israel reached a last-minute compromise last night just before a bill requiring the JNF to transfer money to the state was put before the Knesset for second and third reading.
Under the compromise, the JNF will transfer NIS 1 billion to the state in fiscal year 2018, NIS 400 million in 2019, and NIS 400 million in 2020. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau chief Yoav Horowitz negotiated the compromise with JNF chairman Danny Atar.
In the light of the compromise agreement, the bill was withdrawn.
The JNF, founded by Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl in 1901 to buy land for Jewish settlement in what was then Palestine, holds about 13% of the land in Israel, which it develops for farming, forestry, water conservation, and recreation.
The bill would have forced the JNF to pay taxes. It gave rise to unusual configurations of forces in the Knesset. The Zionist Union and Habayit Hayehudi parties, normally on opposite sides of the political divide, opposed the bill, arguing that it would harm Jewish settlement in Israel, on the kibbutzim, moshavim (cooperative settlements), and on settlements across the Green Line. Against them was ranged an equally unlikely alliance of the Likud, Kulanu, and the Joint Arab List, which would prefer to see the JNF nationalized outright because of its discriminatory policies in favor of Jews in Israel over many years.
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) announced this morning that he would continue with legislation concerning the JNF, despite the compromise reached last night. He said that he would remove from the bill the transfer of lump sums from the JNF to the state, but that he would continue with legislation on taxation of the JNF.
"There is no reason in the world that the JNF should not pay taxes like everyone else, and we will legislate this. What's more, it should be borne in mind that in the current situation in which there is no regular payment of taxes to the state, the JNF's employees are exposed to harm from the government and the JNF, and their rights need to be preserved," Gafni said.
Gafni added that if the government should decide to withdraw the JNF bill completely (the bill was originally chapter seven of the state budget bill but was split from it) he would propose a private member's bill on the matter.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 14, 2017
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