Knesset panel moves forward bill to forbid civil service in left-wing NGOs

MK Ohana: B'tzelem' should start looking for other sources for manpower.

SHOW US the money. Lawmakers attend a preliminary vote on a bill at the Knesset (photo credit: REUTERS)
SHOW US the money. Lawmakers attend a preliminary vote on a bill at the Knesset
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Knesset panel approved for second and third reading a bill initiated by MK Amir Ohana (Likud) that will annul civil-service positions in nongovernmental organizations that are funded mainly by foreign governments. The measure passed 7-0 in the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee. It will be merged in a more comprehensive ministerial bill that regulates the whole field of civil and national service in Israel.
According to an explanatory note, the bill wishes to stop the phenomenon in which the state “acts against itself and against its own interests.”
“Civil service [national service] is an important solution for those who wish to serve and contribute to Israeli society, but not through the military,” it says. “In recent years we are witnessing a reality in which Israeli organizations that receive the bulk of their funding (over 50%) through foreign countries, enjoy the state privilege of volunteers who are coming from the civil service. This creates a situation in which the State of Israel – through these volunteers – is working against itself and in favor of foreign-supported organizations.”
Ohana praised the committee’s decision and called on left-wing NGO B’tselem to “start looking for other sources for manpower.”
“The purpose of this bill is to strengthen the immune system of the State of Israel,” he said. “It is impossible that we will provide as a state subsidized manpower to organizations that are working for the interests of foreign countries, presenting Israelis as war criminals, defending the biggest terrorists and defaming the IDF soldiers who are keeping us safe day and night.”
There are 25 such NGOs registered in Israel, five of which have a total of 17 volunteers doing national service, the civilian alternative for those who cannot serve in the IDF for religious, medical or other reasons. The government budget for national service is almost NIS 500 million per year, and the expenses for each individual volunteer, who receives a monthly stipend far below minimum wage, are split between the government and the organization for which he or she volunteers.
MK Dov Henin (Joint List) criticized the move and claimed that the real harm to the country is being done by the current coalition.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.