Lieberman on Bill to Probe NGOs: Netanyahu Changed His Stance Due to Media Pressure

Stormy debate continues in Knesset on bill to investigate Israeli human rights organizations; Netanyahu applies pressure on Likud MKs to vote against the bill.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called a press conference on Wednesday as the Knesset discussed a bill, proposed by his Yisrael Beiteinu party, to probe human rights organizations.

Throughout Tuesday night, Netanyahu's office applied pressure on Likud MKs to vote against the bill.

Lieberman - Fattal - July 20, 2011
Michal Fattal

Lieberman said that Netanyahu and other coalition leaders previously supported the bill, but had now changed their stance due to international and media pressure.

Lieberman said that Yisrael Beiteinu proposed the bill in coordination and with the approval of the coalition and the government.

"What changed since the preliminary vote in the Knesset?," Lieberman asked. " There was pressure from the media and the international arena. All of a sudden Israeli leaders cannot withstand the pressure and are changing their position dramatically."

Lieberman added that after the bill was passed in the Knesset plenum, he received hints from the leaders of the coalition to delay the vote, but changed his mind after the Likud-sponsored boycott bill was brought to a vote and passed.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni condemned the proposal on Wednesday, saying it was anti-democratic and damaged Israel's interests.

"A dark wind is blowing through the country - created by Netanyahu's coalition," Livni said during the Knesset debate."

An analysis by Haaretz has determined that the draft law will fall short by a few votes, assuming that Likud MKs who oppose the proposal show up to vote against it. The precise voting patterns for some parties in the Knesset, including Habayit Hayehudi and United Torah Judaism, are not known.

Netanyahu has said he would vote against the bill but even before his announcement it became apparent that most of his Likud cabinet colleagues opposed it. The majority of Likud MKs, however, are thought to support the measure.