House Committee to hold hearing on NGO inquiries

Kadima and Labor boycott c'tee, Arab parties say will nominate Ben-Ari, Rotem to take their slots in protest; move guarantees necessary quorum.

January 31, 2011 20:51
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The Knesset’s decision to establish parliamentary committees of inquiry that will probe the funding for and activities of nongovernmental organizations will be brought before the House Committee on Tuesday for a series of votes.

In what is expected to be a stormy midday hearing, the committee will debate the two proposals, one by MK Fania Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu) and the second by MK Danny Danon (Likud).

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In January, the Knesset voted to establish parallel committees – with Danon’s proposal probing “the involvement of foreign bodies and states in funding activities against the state and attempting to acquire its land,” and Kirschenbaum’s examining “overseas funds and states funding Israeli organizations that participate in the delegitimization of IDF soldiers.”

There are nine proposed slots to be filled on each committee of inquiry – two are allotted to Likud, two for Kadima, one shared by the National Union, Habayit Hayehudi and United Torah Judaism, one shared by Labor and Meretz, one for Israel Beiteinu, one for Shas, and one representing the three Arab parties.

Kadima and Labor have both threatened to boycott the probes’ proceedings, leading to fears that the committee might not be able to convene a quorum. But the Arab parties announced that they would nominate, also as a protest, ultraright- wing MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) to serve in their slot for one probe and MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) for the other one. Had an Arab MK served in the position, the quorum would have been at risk – but Ben-Ari and Rotem are guaranteed to be enthusiastic participants in the hearings.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israel Beiteinu-chaired Law Committee is expected to pass a measure nicknamed the “New Israel Fund Bill” for its second and third (final) readings on the plenum floor. The legislation would place strict restrictions on organizations receiving funding from foreign governments.

Although many left-wing organizations receive funds from overseas regimes, right-wing organizations tend to be funded by individuals and nongovernmental bodies. The bill, which is co-sponsored by committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) and MKs Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Avraham Michaeli (Shas) and Otniel Schneller (Kadima), was first filed in 2010, but seems to have a better chance in the plenum in the current political environment.

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