Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin slammed a new version of the NGO bill
saying that it was an indication of politicians “going crazy.”
bill, a combination of proposals by MKs Ofir Akunis (Likud) and Faina
Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu), limits foreign government donations to NGOs by
dividing them into three categories with different standards for taxation and
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Likud sources said on Wednesday night that the
bill had resulted from a compromise between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; however, the Prime Minister’s Office had
yet to make a public statement on the matter.
Bennie Begin was skeptical that Netanyahu had actually agreed to the new
version, as the prime minister’s advisers had told him on Thursday afternoon
that Netanyahu had yet to read the bill.
“We need to be careful
[discussing the NGO bill],” he said. “All of this is adding noise to the
system and is causing us harm on the international stage.”
meanwhile, declared that “the public is already oversaturated and tired from
“It seems like there are some MKs that do not rest
for a minute and want to bring chaos, because of immediate political needs,” he
said, quipping that “whoever wants to go crazy, can go crazy.”
Knesset speaker said that in his opinion, the new proposal was just as
inappropriate as the previous one.
“This doesn’t solve any
problems. It makes them worse by forming a political committee in the
Knesset to regulate opinions and ideas,” he stated.
Rivlin said the bill
was a “bad idea, because a state that creates political commissars is not a true
According to the new version of the proposed legislation,
organizations that reject Israel’s right to exist, call for boycotts of the
state or tell IDF soldiers to refuse orders, among other actions, may not
receive any funding from foreign governments.
Political NGOs will have to
pay a 45-percent tax on such donations, unless the Knesset Finance Committee
decides to waive the tax following a hearing.
that receive state funding will be tax-exempt and may receive unlimited
donations from foreign governments.
“Many organizations in Israel set a
goal for themselves to condemn the State of Israel before the world and
persecute IDF soldiers and officers by sullying their good name,” explain Akunis
and Kirschenbaum in the bill’s text. “These organizations, which often call
themselves ‘human rights organizations,’ are funded by states and anonymous
sources that seek to harm and change the political public discourse in
The two point to Israeli NGOs’ cooperation with the Goldstone
Report as an example of foreign government contributions being used to harm
Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Independence Party took a more
cautious stance on the bill, with faction chairman Einat Wilf saying that “the
values the new NGO bill seeks to promote are acceptable and important. However,
we must ensure that they are implemented equally in every NGO, whether on the
Right or Left.”
She added that “the bill must be fixed so that it forbids
any foreign element – private or governmental – from supporting an Israeli NGO
that encourages evading IDF service or subverting the State of Israel’s
character as a Jewish and democratic state or inciting to racism.”
also said the Independence faction opposed bringing NGOs to a hearing before the
Knesset Finance Committee, calling the idea “inappropriate.”
MKs slammed the bill, also saying that the new version was not significantly
different from its predecessor.
“This isn’t a real change, it’s
cosmetic,” said MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima). “This is just an attempt to make it
seem more moderate, following public criticism.”
He called the
legislation “part of a group of bills that are meant to limit freedom of
expression and organization. The government is attacking anyone who
MK Nachman Shai, also of Kadima, said that “the new NGO bill
is cutting off Israeli democracy’s wings. These limitations will harm the
independence and freedom of action of Israeli civil society.”
that “there is no democracy without a live, active civil society.”
is the same ugly wolf in a different sheep’s clothing,” Labor faction chairman
Eitan Cabel said. “When someone walks like a fascist and talks like a fascist,
he’s a fascist, even if he wears a democratic mask.”
Cabel called for
Netanyahu to “bang on the table and stop this political bullying, without
“That is what a real leader would do,” he added, “but
Netanyahu is a prime minister who is ruled by the right-wing margins of the
crazy coalition he formed.”
Meretz MKs also slammed the bill, with MK
Zehava Gal-On stating that “the witch hunt continues.”
She said the new
version was even worse than the original, “because it accuses and punishes
organizations that criticize the government without a trial.”
“I call for
the prime minister to put this bill in the freezer and stop embarrassing the
State of Israel with his party’s bizarre legislation, which is inspired by
Lieberman,” she declared.
“The Bibi-Lieberman coalition continues to
trample and destroy democracy in Israel,” fellow Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz said.
“The ‘new’ NGO bill is still trying to dry out civil organizations.”
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