Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Knesset cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday stepped up his battle with foreign money funding NGOs, saying that the law passed last year dealing with the matter was not strong enough, and there was a need to beef it up to prevent all funds from foreign governments to NGOs.
Netanyahu made these comments at a meeting of coalition leaders.
The prime minister said he succeeded recently in convincing Norway to withdraw funds it had sent, an apparent reference to Norway's decision to withdraw its funds from a Palestinian center in the West Bank named after Dalal Mughrabi, a female terrorist who took part in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre that killed 37 people.
Netanyahu's comments on Sunday come just two weeks after he told Likud MKs of his new policy to boycott foreign leaders who meet far-left NGOs. In April he cancelled a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel after the German diplomat insisted on going through with a meeting with the far-left NGO Breaking the Silence.
Matan Peleg, the director-general of the right wing NGO Im Tirtzu, welcomed on Sunday Netanyahu's comments about making the NGO law more stringently.
“This law is vital and critical and meant to defend Israeli democracy from meddling from foreign countries in its domestic matters,” he said. “Israel is a stable democratic state and not a banana republic. Disrespect and abuse of Israeli sovereignty by planted organizations must stop.”
But Meretz MK Michal Rozin had a completely different take. She said that Netanyahu's comments show the “bluff” that was involved in last year's NGO law, when the law was presented as an effort to increase transparency of NGOs.
“This is another effort by the prime minister to wink to the Right at the expense of Israeli democracy,” she said, adding that although such a bill would not pass legal scrutiny, it sends a “grave” public message.
“The NGOs are not the problem, but rather the solution, and that is why the right wing government is shaking,” she said.
Last year's bill that Netanyahu wants to make more stringent states that any nonprofit organization that receives more than half of its funding from a foreign political entity has 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 mandate, as well as the countries from which they received donations, has to be posted on the Non-Profit Registrar’s website. The vast majority of organizations for whom this law applies – 25 out of 27 – are left-wing.
That law was criticized by the EU and the Obama administration.