Knesset to Vote on Bill Limiting State-funded Volunteers at Left-wing NGOs

The bill would make it harder for organizations that get most of their funding from foreign governments to obtain volunteers from the national service program, an alternative to military service.

Israelis protest a previous bill that targeted non-profits funded by foreign states, 2015.
Moti Milrod

A bill that in practice would make it more difficult for left-wing organizations to obtain national service workers is heading for its final two votes in the Knesset. The bill would require organizations that receive most of their funding from foreign governments to obtain special approval from the minister responsible for the national service program, which is a civilian alternative to military service.

The bill being promoted by the government would authorize Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi), the minister currently responsible for the national service program, to refuse permission or set conditions for the assignment of national service workers at organizations that are mostly funded by foreign governments.

The same legal approach was first invoked by the current government in a law passed last July pertaining to non-profit organizations that mandates special reporting requirements for organizations that receive most of their funding from foreign governments.

In October, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would work to have national service positions eliminated at the anti-occupation organization B’Tselem after the group participated in a session of the United Nations Security Council on the subject of Israel’s West Bank settlements.

Data from the Agriculture Ministry indicate that there are 111 national service positions at organizations that would be affected by the pending legislation, including one national service slot at B’Tselem that has not been filled over the past year. Other organizations that would require special ministerial permission include the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants and the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.

The bill is a softened and revised version of the approach proposed by MK Amir Ohana (Likud) and the right-wing Im Tirtzu organization, which would have totally banned national service volunteers from being placed at organizations that get most of their funding from foreign governments.

“We ourselves should not supply subsidized personnel to organizations that are acting on behalf of the interests of foreign governments, presenting the State of Israel as a war criminal,” Ohana explained. “I would suggest that B’Tselem start looking for other sources to supply it with personnel.”

Matan Peleg, the CEO of Im Tirtzu, said: “This law will put an end to the absurd reality in which organizations that get most of their funding from foreign governments are exploiting benefits subsidized by the Israeli taxpayer to their advantage and to the detriment of the country.”