(photo credit: Courtesy/Regavim)
NGOs will have to publicly declare any funding from foreign governments if a bill submitted by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) becomes law.
According to the proposal, NGOs funded by foreign governments will have to disclose they do so on any publication, public statement or event, and their representatives will have to wear identification tags when meeting with government officials.
The explanatory portion of the bill states that NGOs funded by foreign governments are essentially disguising themselves as groups of citizens expressing the will of the nation while acting as a conduit for foreign governments to influence internal matters in Israel.
As such, Smotrich said he wants to set rules of transparency and disclosure.
“Foreign governments found a way to erode the Jewish character of the State of Israel and that must stop,” Smotrich stated.
Switzerland, he said, sees it as treason and revokes the citizenship of anyone who receives funds from a foreign government.
“We are not legislating a punishment, but when a foreign country acts in Israeli civil society it should at least be reported, as should sources of funding,” he stated. “We will not allow foreign governments to harm Israel’s sovereignty.”
The legislation is the latest in a series of attempts in recent years to limit foreign governments’ donations to organizations seeking to change government policies.
A previous version seeking to require NGOs to pay taxes on contributions from foreign governments had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support until Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said in 2011 he would not defend it in court.
Another permutation, proposed in 2013, tried to ban donations of more than NIS 20,000 from a “foreign political entity” if the organization, its members, a member of its management or one of its employees calls for IDF soldiers to be brought to international courts; calls for boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) of Israel or its citizens; denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state; incites to racism; or supports armed combat by an enemy state or terrorist organization against Israel.
The bills’ supporters, generally right-wing MKs, say foreign governments should not be allowed to be involved in policy-making, whereas leftwing MKs claim the legislation targets left-wing NGOs.
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