Israeli Ministers Expected to Green-light Bill Seeking to Out Foreign-funded NGOs

Members of NGOs receiving most of their funding from abroad would have to wear a tag at Knesset committee meetings; bill, proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, is widely seen as a way to draw attention to left-wing NGOs.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A bill requiring members of NGOs that receive over half their funding from abroad to wear a special tag at Knesset committee meetings is expected to receive the blessing of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

The tag would denote the person’s name and group, as is already the case for lobbyists. The Knesset would revoke the permit of any representative who does not wear the tag.

The bill, proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, is widely seen as a way to draw attention to left-wing NGOs. The vote on Sunday will determine whether the legislation has government backing.

In addition to the tag, all documents submitted by nonprofit groups would have to name the countries of foreign donors or risk a fine of 29,000 shekels ($7,450).

“Any country wishing to protect its sovereignty must put limits on intervention by foreign entities. An invasion of the public sphere ... in the internal affairs of another country interferes with this country’s sovereignty, especially when such intervention is not transparent,” Shaked said.

“Weapons are not only a rifle or sword. They can also be a well-funded mendacious story about machine guns used to massacre innocent people, or a story told around the world by nonprofit groups pretending to represent Israel’s interests but which actually are financed by foreign countries that exploit these groups to suit their agenda.”

According to the bill, a group that receives most of its funding from a foreign country must state this on all written material it prepares for the public.

In any written appeal to an elected official or public employee, or in meetings at an official’s office when minutes are taken, a nonprofit group must disclose that it is funded by foreign entities and name them.

Kulanu representatives met with Shaked in recent weeks, testing the possibility that NGOs who receive private funding from abroad could be included in the bill. Such a move would also constrain right-wing organizations that receive funds from private foreign sources while revealing their identities in official documents and discussions in the Knesset.

Despite opposition to the bill, the party, under the leadership of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, will be forced to vote in favor of the current wording in alignment with agreements reached upon formation of the current government coalition.

"We think the law is pointless, unnecessary and causes international damage to Israel," said Kulanu faction leader, Roy Folkman, who managed the talks with Shaked. According to him, signing the bill into law would create a "public atmosphere of witch hunts and we need to see how we can draft something more balanced."

Shaked's office acknowledged Kulanu's position on the bill, but said that adding private funds would "create difficult legal problems," and so decided to push forward with the original draft.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is also expected to discuss a bill drafted by MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) that would require courts to rely on "principles of Jewish law" in cases where there are no clear decision based on existing laws.

Slomiansky pulled his bill from discussion just weeks ago amid harsh criticism, but currently plans on presenting it on Wednesday with its original wording.

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