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PA Tries to Play Down JNF Tree Donations for Arab City

Troubles for the Blue Box: The Palestinian Authority has asked the JNF to keep a low profile on the Agency’s donations of trees for an Arab city.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 12/2/2009, 9:00 AM

Israel news photo

The Palestinian Authority has asked the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to keep a low profile on the donation of 3,000 trees for a new Arab city near Ramallah, north of Jerusalem, JNF sources told Arutz 7. The PA fears the media reports on the gift may scuttle future help and may fuel negative reaction among Arabs for accepting “Zionist” assistance.

The Jewish Agency also stands to lose financially due to a possible lack of contributions from the Diaspora, where the JNF’s traditional "Blue Boxes" are a fixture in hundreds of thousands homes and offices.

Arutz 7 was unable to receive an official explanation from the JNF on the donation of the trees because two of its senior officials are traveling outside of Israel. It still is not known who approved the gift and if it fits the JNF’s mission.

The JNF website states, “The Jewish National Fund was established more than 100 years ago by a small group of leaders, including Theodor Herzl. By purchasing plots of land, they hoped to establish the groundwork for the birth of our nation of Israel.”

Its tree-planting website tells potential contributors, “Over the last 100 years, JNF has planted over 240 million trees in the land of Israel.” Neither the tree-planting website nor the main site mentions donations to Arabs, and there is no mention of the Palestinian Authority. The PA claims all of eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, including the new city where the trees are to be planted, as a future sovereign state it wants to establish.

One JNF source said, “The government of Israel officially works with the Palestinian Authority almost every day on different projects, and it is not clear why there is a problem with this donation.”

The directors of the JNF are expected to discuss the donation to the PA at the next meeting of directors after he returns to Israel.