Land owned by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund will be allocated to Jews only, if a bill which was approved in preliminary reading at Wednesday's Knesset plenum becomes a law.
The proposal, which was approved 64:16, with one abstention, was initiated by MKs Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) and MK Ze'ev Elkin (Kadima) and was quickly condemned as racist by Arab MKs.
"The passing of the bill points to a rise in the level of racism, a decline in the level of democracy and galloping toward institutionalized apartheid. There is a racist majority in the Knesset that is willing to support almost any proposal against Arab citizens," said MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) in response to the bill.
MK Uri Ariel, who presented the bill, explained that "the Israel Land Administration manages the land for the JNF and holds the land in trusts. As the JNF's trustee, the ILA must be true to the fund's principles and goals and to the principle of national ownership of the land.
"For generations, thousands of Jews saved every cent in order to purchase land in the Land of Israel for the Jewish People. The ILA must honor Keren Kayemeth's goals and the wishes of generations of Jews, who wished to purchase land that would be sacred to the Jewish people."
MK Ze'ev Elkin attempted to justify the bill, saying "this bill proposal has come to do historic justice and prevent the State of Israel – with the blatant intervention of the High Court of Justice – from violating the basic pact it made with the JNF. Keren Kayemeth was established by the Jewish People in the Diaspora for a specific purpose, namely, Zionist settlement in the Land of Israel."
'Bill affirms 1948 land theft'MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) called the passing of the bill "institutionalized Jewish racism and ethnic democracy going against anything that is Arab."
MK Wasil Taha (Balad) said the bill was nothing more than land theft.
"Only an insane Knesset would pass a racist law that affirms the great land theft of 1948 and turns it into Jews-only property, even though the original owners are still on their land," Taha said.
The bill was also criticized from within the JNF as the JNF's director, Radi Safuri, an Israeli-Arab, told Ynet, "This is a racist law which was initiated by extreme rightist movements. This law does not exist in any of the democratic countries, and it harms the rights of the citizens in the State of Israel and of the Arab population in particular."
Roee Nahmias and Roi Mandel contributed to this report