Knesset to Vote on Softened Version of NGO Transparency Bill Next Week

New wording of controversial legislation drops demand that foreign-funded non-profits have to announce their donors and wear name tags on entering the Knesset.

A demonstration against the so-called NGO transparency bill, in 2015.
Moti Milrod

A vote on whether to send the so-called NGO transparency bill to the Knesset for its second and third reading is scheduled for Monday, after Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky reached understandings with the cabinet about the bill’s final version.

The controversial legislation currently under discussion in the Knesset would require nongovernmental organizations that get more than half their funding from foreign governments or governmental agencies to make the public servants and elected officials they meet with aware of this and also report it in all their written publicity material. However, the final version of the bill goes somewhat easier on the nonprofit groups than the original version had.

In the latest easing of the bill’s stipulations, when the representative of a foreign-funded group comes to a debate in the Knesset, it will not have to be announced for the record that his group gets more than half its funding from foreign governmental agencies; however, when the representative registers to come to the hearing, he must inform the committee secretary that this is the case. If during a hearing, however, he is asked about his group’s funding by an MK, he must answer, otherwise the chairman can refuse to give him the floor.

In addition, it was decided that the law will not apply retroactively, meaning these organizations will not have to declare such contributions that were received in the past. Under the new version of the bill, the law will go into effect in January 2017 and will only apply to donations received from then on.

As previously reported, the final version does not require the relevant NGOs’ representatives to wear nametags in the Knesset, nor will they have to report their foreign governmental support in court proceedings.

The law does require that such NGOs report the fact that they get most of their funding from foreign agencies to the Registrar of Nonprofit Associations. It also requires the registrar to publicize these NGOs’ status and their funding sources in its website listings. The foreign funding must be cited in the groups’ publicity materials, as well as in letter sent to elected or other public officials; and in their annual reports, they must state that the names of their foreign agency donors can be found on the registrar’s website. Violations of these requirements will carry fines.

The bill does not apply the reporting requirements to groups that get funded by foreign individuals or other private sources.