(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
European parliamentarians who attended the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and
Justice Committee meeting on Monday, received a short lesson in Israeli
legislative history from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
committee was formed 62 years ago, thenprime minister David Ben- Gurion called
for the legislation of a constitution for Israel.
However, to this day we
have no constitution, so maybe it would be better if this committee was simply
called the Law and Justice Committee,” Rivlin said.
“Though the State of
Israel is a Jewish and democratic country, we have so far failed to agree on a
constitution. After 2,000 years in exile we understand that Israel is our
homeland, but we still have infighting about the country’s definition as a
Jewish state and as a democratic state. Due to disputes with our Haredi friends
we have yet to reach an agreement about the constitution.”
which was attended by 20 members of European parliaments, but only three members
of Knesset, discussed combating terrorism funding and reporting foreign funding
of NGOs in Israel. The legislators were given a presentation of Israel’s
anti-terror funding activities from Paul Landes, chairman of the Israel Money
Laundering Prohibition Authority, and heard from committee chairman David Rotem
(Israel Beiteinu) about the reasons behind his bill, which aims to require
reporting of foreign sources of funding for NGOs involved in Israel’s political
“We don’t plan to fight organizations that deal with civil
affairs, our problem is with groups that have a political agenda or wish to
delegitimize Israel,” Rotem said. “We know that some groups receive money from
anti-Israel organizations or Arab governments.”
Bundestag deputy Jerzy
Montag (Green Party) expressed concern about Rotem’s bill and the launching of
parliamentary inquiry committees to investigate sources of foreign funding,
saying he was worried that if the legislation became law it could be difficult
for Germans to donate to Israel.
“We in the parliament help transfer
German public money to Israeli causes and are worried that we may not be able to
do so in the future,” Montag said.
“It all depends on the purposes to
which the money goes,” Rotem responded. “We oppose foreign countries pushing for
a change in power. We are not against the expression of different opinions.
However, if foreign countries fund those opinions, Israeli citizens should know
about it. People who have nothing to hide have nothing to worry
Shas MKs Haim Amsalem and Avraham Michaeli both spoke to the
Europeans about Israel’s sensitive situation in the Middle East and the
prevailing feeling that it is constantly under attack, both physically and
“The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians may appear
as if it is a struggle about land and borders, but in truth it is about our
right to exist here,” Amsalem said. “Funds that states and organizations donate
to the Palestinians are used to tarnish Israel.”
At one point the
European legislators had to remind the MKs that they were friends of Israel and
were in the country to find ways to improve cooperation and strengthen
“We know and appreciate your difficult situation
That’s why we came, but it feels like we are under attack,” a
French member of the European Parliament said.