Netanyahu - GPO - July 14, 2011
Netanyahu at a conference in Tel Aviv, July 14, 2011 Photo by GPO
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday he opposes setting up parliamentary committees to investigate the funding sources of left-wing Israeli human rights groups.

"We don't need investigations in the Knesset," Netanyahu said in a conference in Tel Aviv. "We don't need investigative committees.

The passing of the "boycott law" by the Knesset earlier this week – which Netanyahu said he approved and supported - prompted right-wing legislators to revive the initiative for parliamentary inquiry into the funding sources of Israeli human rights organizations. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and MK Danny Danon (Likud) announced on Tuesday they will bring the initiative for a Knesset vote next week.

Knesset sources told Haaretz the initiative was being revived due to a fight for prestige between Yisrael Beiteinu and the Likud, following the Likud success in passing the boycott law.

It is unlikely that the bill will pass, since Netanyahu said he will not enforce coalition discipline in the vote.

Netanyahu was forced to allow a free vote once it became clear that several MKs and ministers were going to oppose the move and disregard coalition discipline.

Lieberman threatened Wednesday that if coalition discipline is not applied in the vote, "we will see this as an offensive move at Yisrael Beiteinu. Following Netanyahu's remarks Thursday, it seems Yisrael Beiteinu will not adhere to coalition discipline on bills it opposes.

The initiative was launched as reaction to the help provided by Israeli human rights organizations for the UN inquiry into Operation Cast Lead, led by Judge Richard Goldstone. A source at Yisrael Beiteinu told Haaretz that Lieberman was partly inspired to renew the inquiry initiative by what the source described as Goldstone's retraction of the report's conclusions, "to prove they weren't working to expose the truth but to harm the army and the State of Israel."

The committees, proposed originally by Danon and MK Fania Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu), are supposed to look into the funding sources of organizations allegedly "delegitimizing" the IDF and calling for draft dodging, as well as into the acquisition of Israeli lands by foreign countries. The committees are powerless to penalize or to subpoena witnesses. Some of the organizations targeted by the MKs, including Yesh Din and Physicians for Human Rights, have already said they would not cooperate with the inquiry.