The Knesset plenum .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Knesset voted to pass a controversial law requiring organizations mostly funded by foreign governments to prominently label themselves as such, in a vote that took place late Monday.
The debate was expected to take six hours and be followed by votes on 50 proposed changes, before the third and final reading.
The bill states that any nonprofit organization that receives more than half of its funding from a foreign political entity would have to indicate as much in any publication or letter to elected officials or civil servants.
In addition, a list of the NGOs falling under the bill’s purview, as well as the countries from which they received donations, would have to be posted on the Non-Profit Registrar’s website.
NGOs already must report all contributions from foreign governments to the registrar.
The initiative has been controversial since its inception, because the vast majority of organizations that would fall under its purview - 25 of 27 NGOs listed by the Justice Ministry - are left-wing.
Its supporters say that the public has a right to know when foreign governments are trying to influence Israeli policy.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), one of the bill's sponsors, said Monday that foreign government funding of NGOs is a non-transparent method by which foreign countries promote their interests in Israel.
"Any channel by which other countries seek to intervene in Israel's internal affairs must be transparent," he argued. "That is what this law does...When foreign intervention is publicized, every citizen can decide whether that is legitimate or not."
Smotrich posited that making foreign government intervention public will reduce its influence on Israeli democracy.
The law passed on its third and final reading with 57 in favor, 48 against.