Knesset House C'tee approves probes into leftist NGOs

Move comes day after body's legal adviser says the inquiries raise questions at the heart of democratic rule.

knesset plenum (photo credit: Channel 99)
knesset plenum
(photo credit: Channel 99)
The Knesset’s House Committee approved on Wednesday, amid heated debate, the establishment of two parliamentary committees of inquiry to probe NGO activities.
The panel also approved the committees’ mandates and the lists of MKs who will participate in the hearings.RELATED:Knesset legal adviser warns against NGO probesHouse Committee to hold hearing on NGO inquiries
The House Committee passed the two proposals by votes of 10-six, with most coalition lawmakers voting in support of the move and opposition MKs opposing it.
MK Einat Wilf (Independence) was the sole coalition member to vote against the probes.
“The mandates of these investigative committees are completely one-sided,” Wilf said. “We support transparency regarding the organizations’ operations, but in this case, only one side of the political map is being examined, and in any case, a parliamentary investigative committee is not the correct tool to probe this issue. This was an unnecessary initiative, and we could have made do instead with regular hearings within the framework of existing Knesset committees.”
The full Knesset will vote on the probes’ final approval soon. Although Kadima initially turned to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, known to oppose the proposals, in hope of blocking the final plenum vote, Rivlin announced on Wednesday that he wouldn’t do that.
“This undoubtedly constitutes a dangerous and problematic precedent, but nevertheless, I have not seen a need for the Speaker to get involved in this process. The House Committee’s decision will be brought before the plenum for approval without delay,” Rivlin said.
He did, however, call upon MKs to examine the topic carefully before voting. The probes are expected to pass the plenum as easily as they passed their first reading on the house floor.
According to the text approved by the House Committee on Wednesday, the role of the probe that was set up to examine “Israeli organizations that take part in the delegitimization of the IDF” is to “check the levels of involvement by these organizations in the delegitimization of the IDF and its soldiers, their funding, the tools and powers that the state can use to prevent the activity of such Israeli organizations whose purpose is to harm the IDF and its soldiers, and the way to use those tools, and to examine the need for legislation and government activity, including recommendations for legislation and decision-making.”
The committee of inquiry will be chaired by its original sponsor, MK Fania Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu), and will include MKs Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Miri Regev (Likud), Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) and Nissim Ze’ev (Shas). The original proposal was for nine committee members, but the number was reduced after Labor, Meretz, Kadima and the Arab parties refused to participate in the investigation.
The second probe, originally proposed by MK Danny Danon (Likud) and will examine that “the involvement of foreign governments in funding Israeli organizations and in acquiring land in Israel.”
Its mandate includes “examining the funding by foreign governments and international bodies funded by governments of Israeli organizations whose activities are intended to influence the Israeli political discourse, including the level of transparency of the sources of funding and the use made of it; the involvement of foreign governments and bodies in organized acquisition of national and private land in Israel; the tools and authorities at the state’s disposal; the current legal arrangements on these subjects in other democratic states; the need for legislation and government decisions, as well as recommendations regarding that legislation.”
That committee will be chaired by Danon, and will include MKs Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu), Arye Eldad (National Union) and Avraham Michaeli (Shas).
An earlier proposal by the three Arab parties to offer their slot on the committees to MKs Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), whom MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) described as “the most suitable candidates for the position” was withdrawn.
Both probe committees will be granted the same authorities as standing Knesset committees.