Netanyahu demands 2 billion shekels from Jewish National Fund

In an escalating battle between the Jewish National Fund and the Israeli government, the fate of 2 billion shekels hangs in the balance.

By: Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

Historically, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) pioneered efforts to aid the burgeoning State of Israel, purchasing and developing land in the Ottoman Empire’s territories which would later form large swaths of the modern Jewish state. The JNF is also well known for planting trees, building reservoirs, and establishing parks in Israel, and is a major land owner.

The current conflict between the JNF and the government centers on advancing legislation that requires the organization to transfer 2 billion shekels (around $570 million) to the state. On Tuesday, members of the Knesset approved the legislation, paving the way for the government to force the JNF to place 80 percent of its earnings under direct state control, or risk being disqualified for tax exempt status.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also declared his support for the measure, justifying it based on the “needs” of the state.

“The Jewish National Fund sells land every year for billions of shekels. It is very important that this money be channeled to the needs of the State of Israel, these needs cannot wait,” said Netanyahu according to TPS. “I respect the work the organization has done for the State of Israel and the Jewish people since its inception in 1901, but today it is clearer than ever that the future of the Jewish people is tied to the future of the State of Israel.”

Notwithstanding support from the prime minister, some members of coalition parties oppose the measure. According to certain sources, the friction resulting from attempts to secure the funds could actually result in a call for elections, a scenario that has been avoided in the past. The JNF for its part is planning to meet toward the end of this week to discuss the matter, with an emergency meeting in Jerusalem in the offing for next week.

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