Danon vows to push probe of left-wing NGOs

MK submits new bill to limit international groups from filing petitions to High Court.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, RON FRIEDMAN
March 29, 2011 03:37
MK Danny Danon

MK Danny Danon 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

MK Danny Danon (Likud) promised Monday that he would fight attempts to derail the vote on his proposal to establish a parliamentary investigative committee probing left-wing NGOs, hours after he and fellow Likud MK Yariv Levin submitted a bill seeking to further limit the activities of such organizations.

Danon, one of two MKs who pushed for parliamentary committees of inquiry into NGO activities earlier this Knesset session, criticized the lack of progress on his proposal.

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If approved by the Knesset plenum, Danon’s committee would probe “the involvement of foreign bodies and states in funding activities against the state and attempting to acquire its land,” and a second probe – advanced together with Danon’s and pushed by Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu) – would investigate “overseas funds and states funding Israeli organizations that participate in the delegitimization of IDF soldiers.”

According to Danon, he raised the subject of the probes during the weekly meeting of the Knesset plenum’s steering committee.

When he asked why the two proposals had disappeared from the plenum’s agenda, he was told that the two probes would only be returned to the plenum for their final vote in accordance with a decision by the House Committee.

Ghaleb Majadle (Labor) told Danon in response that “this isn’t a stall in the market – go talk to [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, because he was the one who pulled the probes from the agenda.”

Danon said that in protest of the lack of movement on his initiative, he left the meeting.

House Committee Chairman Levin, Danon’s cosponsor of the new legislation, reportedly told Danon that he does not want to bring the proposals up for a vote, and would rather wait until there is a “general agreement” on the establishment of the probes.

The probes initially passed their first vote on the Knesset floor, as well as a vote in the House Committee, by a large majority. But after a number of prominent Likud representatives voiced their opposition to the inquiries, support for the probes eroded and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu granted faction members freedom from faction discipline on any floor vote on the probes.

Twice, the probes were placed on the plenum’s itinerary for final approval, but were removed at the last minute. The first time, the vote was delayed with the explanation that a number of MKs were missing, in Washington attending JStreet’s annual conference; and the second time, it was delayed so that MKs could attend a memorial ceremony for one of the police officers killed in the Carmel forest fire.

Danon said that he will work to ensure that his probe will either be brought to the plenum floor for a final vote or be brought back to the House Committee for a second procedural vote early in the Knesset’s summer session. In such a vote, Israel Beiteinu, which has never officially rescinded its support for the establishment of the probes, will be forced to take a clear position, voting for or against the inquiries.

Danon also will not rule out the possibility of appealing to the Supreme Court in an effort to force the Knesset to continue with the administrative process that it began by either establishing or rejecting the controversial probes.

The new bill submitted to the Knesset on Monday by Danon and Levin aims to limit international NGOs from filing petitions to the High Court of Justice.

According to Danon, the bill aims to “prevent the noticeable affect that High Court verdicts, based on petitions of organizations that have no direct interest in affairs, have on the policies of the government and the Knesset.”

The MKs proposed an amendment to the Basic Law on the Judiciary, establishing that the High Court only hear petitions in cases when the petitioning organization is registered in Israel and runs most of its activities here. The bill also proposes that a foreign organization be prohibited from filing a petition parallel to one submitted by a directly injured party and be forbidden to file petitions on issues that are of a clear public nature.

The bill proposes that foreign NGOs which petition the court provide it with its donors list from the past three years. According to the bill, NGOs will be required to identify the source of the donation, its amount and its purpose.

In a press statement, Danon and Levin explain that the purpose of the new bill is to provide an alternative to Danon’s failed parliamentary inquiry commission, which sought to probe organizations that receive money from foreign countries in order to purchase lands in Israel.

“In recent years there has been widespread use of public petitions to the High Court against administrative or governmental decisions,” wrote the legislators in the bill’s explanatory notes.

“When this information is brought before the judges, they will be able to make sure that no foreign interests enter the gates of justice disguised as public interest petitions.”

In the press release published by Danon’s office, the MKs openly state that they know that the proposal will anger and upset left-wing organizations, but that the proposition came to replace the commission that was torpedoed by the left.

Gilad Kariv, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform movement, characterized the bill as both misguided and foolish and said that it would primarily harm IDF soldiers and officers who, as a result, would face trials in international tribunals.

“Any attempt to reduce the right of petition to the High Court is both an injury to the democratic principles of the state and a foolhardy step that will present Israel as a country afraid to see justice through in the courts,” said Kariv. “The bill expresses lack of faith and disregard of the Israeli courts, showcasing the High Court as a body incapable of loyally protecting Israel’s interests.”

Kariv said the bill endangered IDF officers and Israeli emissaries abroad by subjecting them to prosecution in the international arena.

“It is a shame that MKs are competing over who can produce the most anti-democratic legislation, which in the end will harm Israeli soldiers and emissaries,” Kariv said.

“One of Israel’s greatest strengths is its Supreme Court, which earns us praise and recognition in the eyes of the world. Harming it is cutting the branch we all sit on. I hope that the Justice Ministry, the IDF Attorney’s Office and the Foreign Ministry will present their positions against this bill before it is passed,” said Kariv.


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