Knesset inquiry into foreign-funded NGOs is ‘dead’

Likud MK drafts ‘Soros bill’ to stop ‘antisemites’ from donating to Israeli organizations.

October 31, 2017 00:05
2 minute read.

sraeli lawmakers attend a vote on a bill at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem February 6, 2017. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

The coalition backed down from its proposal to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into funding by foreign governments of NGOs that seek to put IDF soldiers on trial in international tribunals.

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) declared the commission, which was his brainchild, to be “dead.”

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The commission would have looked into foreign governments’ funding of organizations in Israel – information which is available on the Justice Ministry’s website, in accordance with laws passed in recent years. The vast majority of NGOs that receive most of their donations from foreign political entities are left-wing.

Bitan’s comment came in light of Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon’s stance that the topic is not within the Knesset’s authority to investigate, because it is not part of overseeing the executive branch of government, and because it is a matter ideology.

Yinon sent his opinion to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein nearly two weeks ago.

Knesset House Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) blasted Yinon in a meeting of the panel, saying: “We won’t give in to the lawyers’ coup. We will build a wall to block the attempt to neuter the Knesset and turn the people’s representatives into slaves to legal questions.”

Several opposition MKs expressed outrage at Kisch, who removed two of them from the meeting for repeated interruptions.

Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson told Kisch he is bullying a bureaucrat who can’t respond.

MK Miki Rosenthal, also of the Zionist Union, accused the coalition of wanting a “dangerous tyranny of the majority.”

Yinon said: “It’s not the Knesset’s job to establish commissions of inquiry on civil society groups on the left and right... We have to keep the limits of the parliament in order not to slide into McCarthyism.”

The legal adviser also pointed out that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein could have decided not to accept the legal opinion, but did.

The coalition still plans to promote laws that would block foreign governments from funding political organizations in Israel, but such laws have yet to be drafted.

Meanwhile, Likud MK Miki Zohar turned his attention to individuals’ donations to Israeli NGOs, with what he called the “Soros bill.”

Zohar’s proposal would stop donors who are “antisemitic, inciting or hostile to Israel” from contributing to Israeli NGOs. The Strategic Affairs Ministry would determine who falls into that category.

The bill is named after Hungarian- born Jewish-American billionaire George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations donate to several leftwing NGOs, which Zohar characterized as “anti-Israel.” Among the organizations the Likud MK listed are Adalah, which provides legal aid to Israeli Arabs, B’Tselem, which focuses on human rights in the West Bank and Breaking the Silence, which collects testimony from IDF veterans claiming war crimes.

“This bill hopes to minimize the influence of bodies that harm the State of Israel,” Zohar said. “I plan to promote this important bill... in order to defend Israeli democracy and prevent hostile elements from harming it.”

Open Society Foundations did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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