As the Mandate period went on, obstacles to the land redemption effort began to appear. The first impediments followed the 1929 Arab riots, when Arab political leaders pressured their co-nationals to desist from land transactions with the Jews, from which they had been profiting handsomely. In the wake of more extensive Arab disturbances (1936-1939), the Peel Commission partition proposal (July 1937) and the 1939 "White Paper," partitioning of the country became an imminent possibility and the Jewish community and the Zionist movement geared up for statehood. Under these circumstances, land purchase became clandestine, as it had been under the Turks. Regulations under the White Paper policy (Feb. 1940) partitioned the country into three zones: Area A (the Judean and Samarian hills, the Western Galilee, and the Northern Negev), where sales to Jews were banned altogether; Area B (Jezreel Valley, the Eastern Galilee, and most of coastal plain), where sales might continue with approval of the High Commissioner; and Area C (the coastal strip, from Zikhron Ya'akov to a point north of Rehovot, plus the urban areas - corresponding roughly with the Peel Commission partition boundaries), where no restrictions were in effect. To circumvent the rules, the land-redemption agencies established approximately 50 new localities in previously unsettled rural areas by erecting, overnight, settlements which included a stockade and a watchtower. A crucial step in securing the inclusion of the Negev in the Jewish state was the formation of 11 such settlements in this area on October 15, 1946, and another 7 in 1947.
By May 1948, when the Mandate expired and Israel was about to proclaim its statehood, land redemption had placed nearly one-tenth of the country under Jewish ownership, the rest being owned by the government or by Arabs. Reclamation efforts had eliminated most marshes, with the exception of those in the Huleh Valley, and allowed Jewish agriculture to thrive as it had not since the Roman era. The country had 277 Jewish rural settlements - 15 villages (another 30 had become urban in the meantime), 99 moshavim, 159 kibbutzim, and 4 others. Their 111,000 inhabitants accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total Jewish population.
Statehood: New Meanings of Land Redemption
The War of Independence confirmed the role of land redemption in the retention of physical control of land area. Attacks in continuously settled areas were repulsed while several isolated settlements had to be evacuated or were destroyed.
When the armistice went into effect in 1949, Israel found itself with the following assets:
Source: Encyclopedia Judaica
The acquisition by Israel of "state land" transformed the nature and purposes of land redemption. Purchases meant to secure physical control became largely passe; reclamation and settlement, no longer politically or militarily constrained, gathered momentum. Some of the pre-statehood settlement agencies gave way to government bodies; the rest focused on new functions. PICA transferred 12,000 hectares to the JNF and the rest of its holdings to the state, which leased some to the farmers in the villages PICA had once sponsored. James de Rothschild bequeathed all of its other assets to the state. The PLDC, newly renamed the Israel Land Development Corporation, stopped buying land in 1954 and has focused since then on development, building, and readying land for use. In the Huleh Valley, JNF carried out the 6,000-hectare reclamation project in 1951-1958.
In 1960, the Israel Lands Authority was created to manage state land plus the 80,000 hectares owned by the JNF. The Israel Lands Authority Law, passed in the same year, lays down the principle that state and JNF lands shall not be sold, but remain in perpetuity a possession of the State of Israel. Thus, by 1968, state agencies held 92% of the country's area.
The state, in conjunction with the JNF and the Jewish Agency/World Zionist Organization , continued to build rural settlements, some for new immigrants. Another 439 were established between 1948 and 1970. Nearly three-fourths of the new settlements were moshavim; this cooperative form of settlement partially eclipsed the kibbutz way of life. The historical defense goal in land redemption metamorphosed into a new purpose: by filling the periphery, Israel intended, among other things, to avert challenges to its sovereignty there. A new, state-sponsored settlement agency appeared: the Nahal corps of the Israel Defense Forces, which established many border settlements as military outposts which later became civilian settlements.
The reclamation motif in land redemption rose to primacy. The Huleh project brought the total marshland reclaimed to nearly 100,000 hectares, approximately one-fourth of cultivated land within the 1949 armistice lines. Anti-desertification efforts, launched intensively after the War of Independence and pursued to the present day, have given Israel a worldwide reputation. Saline soil (prevalent in the Negev and the Arava Valley) has been reclaimed by means of leaching. This effort, along with irrigation, using the National Water Carrier, has been so effective that the current Israeli generation thinks of Be'er Sheva as being situated on the edge, not in the middle, of the desert.