Knesset winter session 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Knesset passed a bill into law on Monday requiring nongovernmental
organizations to issue quarterly reports about funding they receive from foreign
governments, and to reveal when they are backed by other countries in their
websites and advertisements.
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The bill, which was sponsored by coalition
chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), passed its final reading by a 40-34 vote after
tougher measures against NGOs and plans to form parliamentary inquiry committees
to examine them were dropped.
Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem,
one of the bill’s co-sponsors, withdrew amendments that would have taken tax
benefits away from NGOs supported by foreign governments. His amendments would
also have required NGOs to report donations from foreign individuals and to
write that they received foreign funding on every e-mail they sent.
the version approved on Monday, NGOs could be heavily fined for violating the
Following the bill’s approval in committee earlier this
month, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said the legislation was
“clearly selective and politically motivated.”
“If the bill was truly out
to increase transparency, it would include not only donations from foreign state
entities, but also from foreign private donors, which are frequent funders of
the activities of extremist organizations and groups in Israel,” the NGO
It noted that Rotem had agreed to apply the measures to all foreign
donations, but had later dropped that amendment.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu expressed support for Rotem’s amendments at Monday’s Likud faction
meeting, in the face of strong opposition to the bill expressed by the leadership of several countries. But Rotem said he had decided
to drop the amendments at the request of Zionist organizations that had told him
the amendments would harm them.
Rotem said he would submit a different
version of his amendments before the end of the Knesset’s winter session next
month. He expressed confidence that he would be able to pass
Netanyahu also took steps on Monday to kill efforts to form a
Knesset inquiry committee that would have examined donations from foreign
countries to Israeli NGOs. The prime minister decided to accept a request by
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to allow Likud MKs to vote their conscience on
the bill rather than enforce party discipline.
That decision ensured that
there would not be a majority to approve forming the parliamentary inquiry
Netanyahu initially announced that he supported forming the
committee, but he took steps to stop it from being created already last month,
when he tried unsuccessfully to block faction discipline from being imposed on
“A parliamentary investigative committee would lack the
power to enact change, and at the same time would further worsen the
delegitimization of Israel worldwide,” the prime minister told the Likud faction
Kadima was quick to respond to Netanyahu’s decision.
is a welcome concession by an outgoing prime minister,” said Kadima MK Yoel
Hasson. “Netanyahu once again proved that his consideration works only after the
appropriate level of pressure is put on him. It is too bad that he needed the
attorney-general, the Knesset legal adviser and Kadima in order to reach the
However, Netanyahu’s decision to block the inquiry
committee reportedly angered Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is in
Brussels for a meeting of the Israel-European Union Association Council with the
27 EU foreign ministers on Tuesday.
Lieberman heard about Netanyahu’s
decision from the press. His associates condemned the prime minister for “caving
in to the Left,” and vowed revenge.
The EU foreign ministers and
Lieberman are expected to face off at the meeting on the funding their countries
give anti-Zionist organizations in Israel.
Meanwhile, a Panels poll
broadcast Monday on the Knesset Channel found that most Israelis consider
Lieberman a good politician and a bad foreign minister. Fiftyseven percent of
respondents called him a good politician, and 10% said he was a bad one. Only
28% said he was good foreign minister.