With Hungary Cracking Down on Soros, Israeli Lawmaker Pushes His Own 'Soros Law'

Israeli lawmaker from Netanyahu's Likud party vows to push bill day after Israel backtracks criticism of Hungarian PM's campaign against Jewish-American financier George Soros

Hungarian-American investor George Soros attends a press conference prior to the launch event for the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, June 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop)
Hungarian-American investor George Soros attends a press conference prior to the launch event for the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Ferdinand Ostrop/AP

A lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party says he will put forward a bill he is calling the "Soros Law" to block donations to left wing organizations enjoying foreign funding.

On Sunday, Haaretz reported that Israel's foreign ministry issued a statement denouncing U.S. billionaire George Soros, in a move that appeared designed to align Israel more closely with Hungary. Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew who has spent a large part of his fortune funding pro-democracy and human rights groups, has repeatedly been targeted by Hungary's right-wing government, in particular over his support for more open immigration.

In a press release from Monday, MK Miki Zohar said that within a few days, the so-called "Soros Law" will be brought before the Knesset. Under the legislative proposal, "any person donating to organizations acting against Israel will not be allowed to donate to any organization or nonprofit association in Israel," his statement said.

Soros has been associated with extremist left organizations, MK Zohar said his statement.

The law is only named after Soros and will not necessarily target organizations funded by the liberal philanthropist who survived the Holocaust and supports groups that Israel's hawkish government views as unfairly harsh toward the Jewish state or favoring Palestinian viewpoints.

The bill will join a wave of legislation in Israeli trying to limit the activites of left wing organizations and targeting their ability to raise funds, the most prominent of these was the so-called NGO Law.

"It's time to defund the left-wing organizations undermining the government, smearing Israel and trying to detract from its right to defend itself," MK Zohar said. "We have to block their sources of financing and prevent them from harming the state."

On Sunday, Israel retracted a statement issued the previous day by the Israeli ambassador to Hungary, which had called on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his party to halt a poster campaign against Jewish-American financier George Soros on the grounds that it was fueling anti-Semitism.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon issued a clarification that refrained from criticizing Orbán but also sharply criticized Soros himself, using claims similar to the ones being made against him by the Hungarian government.

“Israel deplores any expression of anti-Semitism in any country and stands with Jewish communities everywhere in confronting this hatred. This was the sole purpose of the statement issued by Israel’s ambassador to Hungary,” the statement said. “In no way was the statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”

The tension comes at a particularly sensitive time, since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Orbán in Budapest on July 18, during what will be the first visit of an Israeli premier to Hungary in 30 years. The day after their meeting, Netanyahu and Orbán are scheduled to meet with the leaders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.

Liberal Israeli lawmaker MK Zahava Galon accused Netanyahu of "supporting global anti-Semitism" over his handling of the Soros affair.

The ads, part of a campaign underscoring the government's anti-migration policies, show a smiling Soros, who is a supporter of migrants, along with the caption "Let's not let Soros have the last laugh."

They have been criticized for playing into anti-Semitic stereotypes, which has been denied by the Hungarian government.

Reuters and DPA contributed to the this report