טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentDrori Micha
SubjectProperty Rights in the Rural-Agricultural Sector in Israel
from a Cross-National Comparative
Perspective
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisor Professor Emeritus Rachelle Alterman
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


Abstract

Due to national government policy, the majority of Israel’s farming communities, covering almost all the country’s farmland, have almost no property rights in the nationally-owned land and in most cases, even in their family housing. This applies, with some small differences, to both main types of villages: the kibbutzim (communal) and the moshavim (cooperative small family farms) In recent years, there is even further retraction in some respects. While most urban land is also nationally owned, in recent years the policy there has been in the reverse direction:  the urban sector is currently undergoing full privatization.

The objectives of the dissertation are first, to establish to what extent this situation is indeed an anomaly among advanced-economy countries, and then to evaluate the likely impacts for the future if this policy were to continue. For this purpose, we conducted a comparative legal and empirical study of the property rights of farmland in 6 European nations:  Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Hungary.

We sought to identify the very details of property rights - including planning regulations - that currently hold for each country.  We therefore first established a conceptual common denominator of property rights by defining the detailed components of a maximal “bundle of rights”.   This framework was used to analyze both the law and practice.  A questionnaire was designed to interview stakeholders in each country about the de facto property rights. 

To evaluate of the impacts of Israel’s agricultural land policy, we identified a set of 13 shared goals promoted by the OECD to meet the challenges of the agricultural sectors in developed countries.  The detailed findings of the comparative legal-empirical part of the research show the extent to which Israel’s agricultural land rights are indeed an anomaly.  Israeli farmers hold only a short term, ever-changing lease agreement, without security of tenure, market rights or planning rights.   

We evaluated Israel’s agricultural land policy from two-time perspectives:  We first gave (subjectively) scores for the degree of goal fulfillment to date and then projected the probable impacts of the widening gap between the urban and rural property rights.  The ostensible paradox is that despite the minimalistic property rights of Israel’s farming communities ever since pre-State times, the country’s agricultural sector is world-renowned for its high achievements.  From an international comparative perspective both the kibbutzim and the moshavim scored very high on each of the 13 goals (with some differences).  However, according to our analysis, only a few of these achievements are due to the land regime, and most are due to ideological and human factors.  Today, the land regime is anachronistic and counter-productive. 

Projected over time, the growing gap between the property rights of the urban and the farming communities plus several regressive policies directly imposed on the rural sector are likely to lead to gradual (forced) commodification and gentrification of the kibbutzim and economics-driven gentrification of the moshavim.  Due to the absence of property rights, national government is currently taking - for the first time in that scale - massive amounts of productive farmland deemed to be very cheap, for urban development.