Knesset's legal adviser opposes NGO inquiry panels
Yinon stressed there is nothing illegal about establishing the panels but called on the House Committee to carefully weigh the harm they could cause against the possible benefits.
The Knesset's legal adviser told the Knesset House Committee yesterday he opposes the proposed parliamentary inquiry into the funding sources of left-wing Israeli human rights groups.
Eyal Yinon wrote in a white paper in preparation for yesterday's deliberations that the two proposed panels set a dangerous precedent in that they would investigate "organizations that are identified with only one side of the political spectrum, which is currently in the opposition."
Yinon added that "these committees, in contrast to previous inquiry committees, propose to deal with what is interpreted as the restriction and limitation of fundamental rights in a democracy, including those of freedom of expression, of protest and of political organization."
Yinon stressed there is nothing illegal about establishing the panels but called on the House Committee to carefully weigh the harm they could cause against the possible benefits. He said the panels would be parliamentary committees of inquiry in name only. Not only would they lack the authority characteristic of state inquiry commissions, their authority would be less than that of a regular Knesset committee, with no legislative power.
His statements ignited a firestorm in the session, which is due to vote today on the composition and powers of the inquiry committees. "It appears as though the majority that supports the panels has become a persecuted minority in the Knesset building," said MK Danny Danon (Likud ), who is expected to head one of the committees.
Yisrael Beiteinu MKs joined the assault on Yinon, claiming that the legal opinion he submitted is purely political, not judicial.
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ) said that in light of Yinon's recommendations the inquiry proposals should be scrapped. He said the idea of appointing committees of inquiry aimed at a minority is a red line that should not be crossed and a violation of the right to freedom of expression.
Coalition whip MK Zeev Elkin (Likud ) has proposed two inquiry committees. The first, to be chaired by MK Fania Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu ), would examine financial support by foreign governments and organizations for "Israeli organizations taking part in the campaign of delegitimization against IDF soldiers." Its proposed members are MKs Elkin, Miri Regev (Likud ), Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism ) and Nissim Zeev (Shas ).
The proposed chairman of the second committee is Danon, who described its mission as "investigating the involvement of foreign governments and organizations in supporting activities against the state and attempts at the organized acquisition of state land." Joining him on the panel will be MKs Tzipi Hotovely (Likud ), Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ), Aryeh Eldad (National Union ) and Avraham Michaeli (Shas ).
Most of the opposition parties, including Kadima, Labor, Meretz, Hadash and the Arab parties, have already indicated they will not be represented on the committees.