Sunday, September 27, 2009

Real reform in Israel is a distant prospect

Netanyahu ploughed through opposition to get land reforms passed, but they have serious consequences for Palestinians

A Good Comment

Ben White, Sunday 27 September 2009

"Once again, issues like the settlement "freeze" are dominating the official peace process, ignoring not only core questions like Israel's "matrix of control", but also the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel. While the increasingly overt racism of Knesset members has got its fair share of headlines, other important developments have escaped scrutiny outside the region.

Last month, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu managed to pass legislation that introduces significant changes in how Israel's land is administered. The bill that eventually passed in the Knesset seeks to replace the Israel Lands Administration (ILA), which manages 93% of land in Israel, with a new Land Authority, and crucially, will allow for the privatisation of 200,000 acres (half by 2014). This change will "allow people to own their property outright, rather than lease it from the ILA".......

.....Yet there are important consequences for Palestinian refugees and Palestinians in Israel (including the "present absentees").

First, the privatisation means that land previously managed by the state after it was expropriated from Palestinians by past Israeli governments will become the property of private owners. This despite the fact that these mass expropriations were carried out ostensibly for a "public" purpose, and therefore should revert to their original owners once the original reason for the state's expropriation is no longer relevant.

The reform will also "lead to privatisation of property of some of the lands of destroyed and evacuated Arab villages, as well as many properties belonging to Palestinian refugees" – property currently held by the state's Custodian of Absentee Property. As Adalah, the Arab rights legal centre, put it, this privatisation of land "will lead to a total break of the link between the land and its original owner", while "the sale of absentees' property" is not only a breach of the Geneva convention, but also "contravenes" Israel's own Absentee Property Law............

For Palestinians, the land reforms pushed through by Netanyahu's government have less to do with stimulating the economy than feeling like a continuation of the 1948 Nakba. Dr Yosef Jabareen, a lecturer at The Technion in Haifa, summarised the bill as a "neo-liberal economic vision, which focuses on the privatisation of public resources" converging "with the completion of Palestinian disinheritance". The real kind of reform needed is still a distant prospect."

No comments: