Rivlin slams ‘legal tribunal’ against left-wing NGO

Speaker criticizes political ‘climate of incitement’ leading to probe; hopes to convince coalition members to oppose the probe.

Rivlin 311 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Rivlin 311
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Shortly after the Knesset gave initial approval to a controversial decision to establish a parliamentary inquiry into left-wing organizations critical of state institutions, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend that the decision was an overextension of Knesset powers.
Rivlin said he would work in the coming days to convince coalition members to oppose the probe’s establishment, but added that he believed he would have an uphill fight against junior members of his own party.

Left-wing NGOs mad Knesset to probe foreign funding
“On principle, it is not good for MKs to turn the Knesset into a legal tribunal to judge political beliefs,” Rivlin said.
“The Knesset should use the tool of parliamentary inquiry for completely apolitical topics concerning administration, for instance, on Ethiopian immigration.”
Rivlin expressed extreme discomfort with the decision made Wednesday by the Knesset plenum to set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry to examine foreign funding for Israeli left-wing non-governmental organizations, particularly those who openly criticize the IDF’s actions. The plenum decision will now be turned over to the Likud-controlled House Committee for discussion, and then returned to the plenum for a final vote.
“What should not happen is for inquiries to be established so that the coalition can investigate the opposition, or the Right can investigate the Left.
The Knesset cannot turn into a legal tribunal of members of one type against the other.
Otherwise, 61 MKs could rule against 59, and the remaining 61 would reject 30, and so on and so forth, until there would be a parliament of one,” he continued.
“Political debates can and should be held in the Knesset’s regular committees, and there are certainly Knesset committees that can discuss aspects of the questions surrounding funding for NGOs. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee can discuss the issue of turning over names of IDF soldiers to foreign bodies, and the Law Committee can discuss issues of funding.”
Rivlin, a declared Jabotinskyite who long represented the right-wing of his own Likud Party, emphasized that he was not defending the actions of left-wing organizations targeted by the probe.
“Even if the criticisms against the organizations are correct, the NGOs can now just say that all the allegations are politically motivated.
There are other bodies of the state: the Shin Bet [Israeli Security Service], the attorney-general, and the courts [that can] decide if their actions were illegal. But creating a political forum will just give legitimacy to their behavior, and then, even when they do things that are illegal, they will say that the very [legislation deeming their] illegality is political.”
The Knesset Speaker intends to speak with major faction leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni, in advance of the House Committee meeting that will determine the parameters of the probe.
“The factions must understand that their rallying call should not be total war against the other side. There are parties that gain political power by emphasizing extremism and hatred against others, and this must not happen in the Knesset. All of the less-sectoral factions must clearly state that the phenomenon upon which we are voting should not be addressed in this forum.”
The right wing, he warned, should also keep in mind that “politics, especially in our system, is a wheel. Sometimes you are on top, and sometimes you are on the bottom. We yelled when the Left began to ask about international donors who were providing funds for building in Jerusalem and the right-wing doctrine. A democracy must be concerned with the minority, whether it is political or ethnic, and take heed of [Revisionist philosopher and leader Ze’ev] Jabotinsky’s warning against majoritization.”

Rivlin acknowledged that he faced a difficult challenge in convincing the younger members of his own party.
“I am very concerned by the interpretation of Jabotinsky by our younger members,” he emphasized. “His most important article was “On Majoritization.”
In general, he bemoaned, “incitement has become part of the utilitarian political climate.”
“Once it was called McCarthyism in the United States; in Russia, they spoke of show trials. Today in the growing extremes between Left and Right, coalition and opposition, the sides use parliamentary tools to enforce a majoritization of the issues.
“MKs with good backgrounds mostly concentrate on getting headlines through emphasizing and using hate to get political ends. This is a dark climate that endangers not just the democratic state, but the state itself,” Rivlin added.