In terms of land ownership, Israel is quite different from other democratic advanced-economy countries. In the country, a vast majority of the land is owned by the state or quasi-state agencies. In fact, 93% of the total land area is owned by the state or quasi-state agencies. This does not include the occupied areas of Gaza and West Bank.
According to the Basic Law: Israel lands, the ownership of Israel lands is not to be transferred by sale or any other manner. Israel lands are defined as the land owned by three bodies, the State of Israel, The Development Authority and the Jewish National Fund. Israel lands can be leased to other parties.
The lands under the ownership of the state are the lands that were under the ownership of the British Mandate over Palestine until 1948. About 75% of Israeli lands are owned by the state.
The Jewish National Fund was established at the end of the 19th century as a part of the Zionist movement. About 13 percent of Israel lands are owned by JNF.
The remaining 12% of Israel lands are under the ownership of the Development Authority, a statutory body established in 1950.
Although Israel has a small land area compared to other countries of the world, it has a significant number of unclaimed property that are declared as abandoned. The State maintains a separate department for locating unclaimed property in Israel and finding out the owners.
Public Opinion Regarding National Ownership Of Land In Israel
During Israel’s initial years, the government and the people believed that pubic land ownership was crucial in the territorial and demographic stabilization. Today the idea is not immune to criticism and the monopoly of Israel Lands Administration is being challenged.
Experts mention three major arguments against the public ownership of land. The first argument is that the rights that the state grant to leaseholders have a close resemblance to the rights of property owners, indicating that the government has very limited control over leased lands.
Second, experts point out that state ownership is not necessary for controlling land development. If the land has to be protected from being sold to aliens, implementing regulations on land transactions of private parties would be enough.
Third, experts mention the inefficiency in the management of Israel lands by the state machinery.
Alternative proposals to reform the current public land ownership system were made and necessary changes can be expected in the future.