(by Hana Levi Julian)
Wealthy foreign Arabs have bought up hundreds of dunams of land in the Galilee, according to a report broadcast Saturday on Voice of Israel government radio. The land, which was owned privately and which was zoned for agricultural use, was sold due to economic hardship.
The buyers were wealthy citizens of Arab states in the Persian Gulf that do not have any diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.
Groups of Galilee Jewish farmers who tried to organize a counter-offer failed to raise enough money to purchase the land from its owners.
Israeli lands are being sold to the highest bidder.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon said he had no legal authority to intervene in the matter. The Israel Lands Authority, which owns most of the land in Israel, told the radio station it could not stop a transaction involving privately-owned land.
The Knesset last month passed a bill that mandates the sale of 400,000 dunams of the Land of Israel by 2014, the equivalent of 400 square kilometers, or 155 square miles (nearly 99,000 acres). The law allows another 400,000 dunams to be sold after 2014.
Kadima Knesset Member Nachman Shai slammed the same in a news release, saying “Israeli lands are being sold to the highest bidder,” just as expected and feared during the vote on land reform.
“The Israel Land Authorities reform is a loophole calling out to the robber, and it will attract, as expected, Arab investors from abroad, who will eventually gain control over significant pieces of land in Israel,” Shai said.
Meretz head Chaim Oron also pointed to the sale as proof that the land reform bill had been “misguided.”
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