PM, Lieberman join to revive NGO-funding bill

Newest draft, written at PM’s request, divides organizations into 3 categories for potential foreign gov't funding.

MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Days after the NGO bill seemed to be history, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are trying to revive it.
The measure seeks to limit foreign-government funding to political organizations.
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At the request of Netanyahu, MKs Ophir Akunis (Likud) and Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beitenu) drafted a new version of the bill, which the Ministerial Committee on Legislation is expected to authorize in 10 days.
Following Netanyahu’s call for Akunis to further clarify and define which organizations are political, the new version of the bill divides NGOs into three categories, combining elements of both MKs’ original bills.
The new draft, which is signed by both Akunis and Kirschenbaum, forbids any foreign- government donations to NGOs that rejects Israel’s right to exist; incites racism; supports violence against Israel; supports putting Israeli politicians and IDF soldiers on trial in international courts; calls for boycotts of the state; or for IDF soldiers to refuse orders.
In addition, donations from within Israel to such organizations will be subject to a 45 percent tax.
Political organizations, such as B’Tselem or Peace Now, will also have to pay a 45% tax on donations.
However, they will have the option of undergoing a hearing in the Knesset Finance Committee, which may decide to waive the tax.
Non-political organizations that receive state funding will be taxexempt and may receive unlimited donations from foreign governments.
This category includes Magen David Adom and the Hebrew University, among other NGOs.
The ministerial committee originally approved Kirschenbaum’s bill, which would levy a 45% tax on foreign governments’ donations to NGOs, and Akunis’s, which capped such contributions to political NGOs at NIS 20,000, – but the initiatives were thwarted by an appeal from Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, who declared them “dead.”
On Monday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened to attempt to pass Kirschenbaum’s bill despite the appeal, and Netanyahu’s office hurried to find a compromise that both the prime minister and the foreign minister would find satisfactory.
Earlier this week, Begin expressed confidence the NGO bills are “practically dead,” due to his appeal, and said Netanyahu is unlikely to allow them to pass when he and numerous other ministers oppose them.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.