Israel's Boycott Law Prompts Rightist MKs to Push Bill Probing NGOs

FM Avigdor Lieberman and MK Danny Danon announce they will bring intitiative to Knesset vote next week.

The passing of the "boycott law" by the Knesset on Sunday 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 Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said he was approving the request, and that the inquiries will be voted on next Wednesday. The move appears to aim mostly at embarrassing the MKs who have yet to announce their position on the matter, with Knesset sources telling 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. The chances are slim for the inquiries to be actually voted through, after Prime Minister Benjamin 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.

Avigdor Lieberman - Michal Fattal
Michal Fattal

"There are rules to the game even without a decision on coalition discipline - you have to vote," Lieberman said on a radio program yesterday. "As far as we're concerned, our immediate conclusion is that next week, we'll bring up our proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into the funding of terror-supporting organizations, and we'll see how the coalition will conduct itself."

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 in 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.