Knesset rejects bill to make NGOs' private donors transparent

Livni: There must be transparency for everyone, not just government's opponents; Shaked: Livni is taking charities hostage because of politics.

Tzipi Livni and Ayelet Shaked (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tzipi Livni and Ayelet Shaked
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Legislation that would require private donations to NGOs to be made public was voted down by the Knesset Wednesday, days before an expected vote on the government’s NGO transparency bill, which applies to foreign government funding.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), who proposed the bill, presented it in the plenum, saying: “The government’s bill is called the ‘transparency bill’ but in practicality, it is meant to label those who oppose the government in Israel.
“What you want is to label Israeli citizens who oppose your policies, and you’re saying its technical. That’s just like what the European Union says about labeling Israeli products [from the West Bank, Golan Heights and parts of Jerusalem].”
Livni said NIS 500m. is donated privately to NGOs in Israel each year, 90 percent of which is kept private.
“If you really want transparency,” she said to the coalition, “then do it for everyone.
There’s no such thing as half-transparent.”
The Zionist Union MK’s proposal would expand the current requirement to report on the sources of contributions from an individual or corporation, which allows NGOs to request to keep the information classified, to match the laws relating to donations from foreign countries, which require organizations to regularly report them to the Justice Ministry.
Livni’s bill also sets criteria for cases in which a donation may be kept secret, whereas the current law leaves the matter to the Justice Ministry’s discretion. Such a donation must be under an amount determined by the Justice Minister, and upon making the decision, the ministry must take transparency into account, “in order to allow the public to exercise its right to know what economic and political motives are behind NGOs,” while considering the donors’ right to privacy.
Another considerations is comparative size of the donation, as opposed to other contributions to the NGO.
The Justice Ministry must publicize online the name of organizations allowed to keep donations secret, and the reason they were given permission to do so, and to regularly report the authorizations to the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee.
The Justice Ministry bill states that, in addition to the law requiring them to report foreign government funding, any nonprofit organization that receives most of its funding from a foreign political entity will have to present itself as such, as well as list which countries support the NGO in any forum in which they are speaking with elected officials and in any publicly available texts – whether in advertisements, online, in written reports, etc.
Shaked defended the bill in the Knesset Wednesday, saying Livni’s bill is meant “to make two things that are not at all connected to each other appear to be equal.
“There is no connection between the transparency bill I am promoting to prevent intervention from foreign countries in Israel, and Livni’s NGO bill, which will hurt tens of thousands of good NGOs in Israel,” Shaked stated. “Livni, you are taking good organizations that are promoting true social agendas hostage to your political agenda.”
Donors who previously thought their contributions would be kept private may stop or reduce their funding if it is made private, she said.
Shaked also pointed out that when Livni was Justice Minister, in the last government, she did not consider making private donations transparent.
Livni’s bill was voted down 42-40.
The government’s NGO transparency bill is expected to go to a vote Monday.