(photo credit: ITZIK EDRI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The Knesset on Wednesday passed in its third and final reading a law that will cancel national-service positions in organizations that receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments.
The measure, which passed 40-12, was initiated by MK Amir Ohana (Likud) and seeks to end the phenomenon in which the state funds organizations which he considers to be “undermining Israeli policy” through foreign government funding.
The bill, which regulates the entire field of national service in Israel, was drafted following a report by the right-wing organization Im Tirtzu, which discovered that there were 12 national service positions available in five organizations that receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments.
According to Im Tirtzu’s report, the organizations that fall under the law’s purview include B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Israel Social TV and the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants.
“This absurdity in which the State of Israel provides manpower via national service to organizations that work against it in various ways, both in Israel and abroad, ends today,” Ohana said in the plenum.
“The time has come that we proudly and unapologetically work against those who act against the State of Israel – in Israel and abroad. There will be no more national service for those who call the IDF soldiers criminals during time of war. We will end the support for those who encourage illegal infiltrators to come here. If they want manpower, they can go the United Nations Security Council. These days are over,” the lawmaker said.
Following the vote, Ohana added: “Whoever goes after the State of Israel – we will go after them. We will not make life easy for those Trojan horses operating among us.”
Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg welcomed the passage of the law, saying it sends an important message to those seeking to harm Israeli democracy from within.
“This law will put an end to an absurd reality in which organizations that receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments exploit the benefits provided by the Israeli taxpayer for their own harmful agenda,” said Peleg.
“This is a historic day for Israeli democracy,” he said. “Slowly but surely we are ending the era in which the state funds those seeking to destroy it.”
Opposition MKs said the law weakens Israeli democracy.
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said that although he supported the general National Service Law, the bill that was merged into it hurts the cause.
“This section of the law adds to a long line of laws that was legislated recently and damages Israel around the world,” said Shai.
“What are they afraid of? How are these euros and dollars harming the strength of Israeli society? This is the price we need to pay to protect our freedom of speech,” he said.
“The country will not fall apart because of this phenomenon."