The Knesset Finance Committee yesterday approved a bill making the Jewish National Fund (JNF) an ordinary taxpaying agency that must operate transparently and keep books. The bill also stipulates that JNF must provide NIS 2 billion in the next two years for major national infrastructure projects.
The bill gives JNF two alternatives. One is paying the state NIS 2 billion (65% of its revenue) in 2018-2019, NIS 1 billion in each year, after which it will enjoy a tax exemption until 2023. The other is paying taxes starting on January 1, 2018.
Under both alternatives, all the exemptions for JNF will be eliminated starting on January 1, 2024, and the agency will pay full taxes. The discussions leading to the approval of the bill were particularly raucous, and were interrupted many times before a compromise was reached.
The bill's opponents argued that it amounted to nationalization of JNF, and would damage its Zionist activity. The supporters asserted that JNF operates without transparency in both its budget and its activity. Upon the committee's approval of the bill, chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said, "After the bill is approved finally on its second and third reading by the Knesset plenum," he planned to "promote a comprehensive discussion about JNF and its activity." Gafni added, "The Knesset Finance Committee members and I want to know what JNF is doing today, what it is dealing with, in which communities it is operating, and in which it is not operating." Before the Finance Committee's hearing, Gafni called on JNF director general Amnon Ben Ami to take part in the discussion and give the committee a review of JNF's activity, and how it assigned resources to various activities.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on November 9, 2017
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