Last week, a scowling Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left, photo from Ynet) sat in parliament while his land reform took a beating. Key members of his coalition did not show up to vote (they hid in the cafeteria and offices), and so Netanyahu delayed the vote for fear it wouldn’t pass without his supporters. Read more at the Jerusalem Post.
To see some strong reactions to the reform, check out privategrounds.co.il, an Israeli site collecting semi-nude photos of “private people against privatization.”
In May, Green Prophet reported on a pending land reform that would dismantle the Israel Land Administration, a government body that controls 93% of the country’s lands. Today, most land “owners” in Israel actually lease their grounds from the government, which gives the ILA some say in directing development.Two months ago, the reform would have put an unlimited amount of land for sale to the highest bidder. The ILA reform was also packaged with the general budget bill, making it very difficult to reject it.
In the last two months, it has undergone some deep changes, reports Haaretz. The reform was split off from the budget bill, allowing for a longer discussion. There is a limit of 200,000 acres to be sold, about 4 percent of Israel’s total area. Land buyers have to present a plan for what they purchase to curtail runaway development. And the ILA will be replaced with a Lands Authority, whose 13-member board will include a representative from the Ministry of the Environment.
Changes notwithstanding, the reform still faces deep opposition from several angles. Right wingers fear giving up pieces of the national Jewish home. Left wingers don’t want to give developers a blank check. Environmentalists worry about the future of open space. And Arab parties take issue because farms that build residential developments on their property will be able to exclude Arabs through selection committees.
According to Haaretz, Netanyahu has given his ministers an ultimatum: vote for the reform, or be fired. The bill will go to vote again in the coming days, just as Knesset goes to recess.
I’d be happy to hear comments and any more information, as I am writing about this reform for some print publications.