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Here is the concluding paragraph from an article from Torah L'Daat (red volume, BeHar 'בענין אם יש קנין לנכרי בארץ ישראל להפקיע קדושת שביעית') that discusses the halachic boundaries of whether non-Jews can acquire land in Israel to remove the obligation of Shvi'it. The article, in general, outlines the basis for heter mechira.

‏… היתר זה של הב״י הי׳ היסוד להיתר המכירה שהונהג משנות תרמ״ט—תרנ״ו ואילך. אמנם, הרבה גדולים התנגדו למכירה מטעמים אחרים, ואפילו המתירים התירו למכור לעכו״ם רק בשעת הדחק גדולה כשהי׳ נוגע לפיקוח נפש ממש, ולא התירו לחלוטין אלא בשביל שמיטה אחת לבד, ובשמיטה הבאה הוצרכו לישב בדין עוד פעם לברר אם השעה דחוקה כ״כ עד שהוצרכו לסמוך על היתר מכירה.…‏

… This heter of the Bet Yosef was the basis for the heter of sale that was practiced from the years 5649 to 5656 and thenceforth. However, many great rabbis opposed the sale for other reasons, and even those who allowed selling to a non-Jew did so only in a great time of pressure where it was relevant to actual preservation of life. They allowed it not absolutely but for one Shvi'it alone and required the following Shvi'it that people sit in judgement again to determine whether the time was so pressing as to require reliance upon the heter of sale.…

The condition brought to allow heter mechira is that it must be only at a 'very pressing time' (שעת הדחק גדולה) where 'lives are at stake'. Do battei din that permit heter mechira use other clauses to allow heter mechira? Or do we indeed live in a time where lives are at stake and we permit heter mechira?

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This is more Shaat HaDechak than most people's chametz sales... – Double AA Jun 18 '14 at 22:23
@DoubleAA, but we're assured that if we let the land lie fallow for sh'mita then God will provide. So where's the d'chak? – msh210 Jun 19 '14 at 4:59
@msh210 judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/35536/… in particular, and the question in general. Note that expecting such a public and document-able miracle like that nowadays would be even more extreme, given the lack of those recently. (Note further that if your answer worked even the Rabbis 150 years ago would have had no basis for relying on Heter Mechira.) – Double AA Jun 19 '14 at 5:05
Rav shlomon zalman in his hakdama to maadanei arutz has not only the history but also the halachic issues involved – Mefaresh Jun 19 '14 at 6:21

Rav Ovadia Yosef states that the sefardi poskim allow heter mechira, regardless of if it is a shaas hadchak. He also quotes that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach paskened in favor of heter mechira. In his sefer שו"ת יביע אומר ח"י), Rav Ovadia, states clearly that it is 100% permitted in this day, and that is regardless of whether it is a time of sakana. But for those who are machmir, blessing will come to them.

I dont think that it is easy to say that it is a 1 dimensional issue, it clearly has many issues that need to be taken into account, such as if we are machmir will we be causing farmers to sin.

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