Netanyahu Unlikely to Oppose Bill Aiming to Out Foreign-funded NGOs

The legislation, which opponents say unfairly targets left-wing organizations, is expected to receive the support of all the coalition's factions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset.
Emil Salman

A bill that would impose new regulations on non-profit organizations whose funding comes from foreign governments and which opponents say unfairly targets left-wing organizations is unlikely to be opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a source said Sunday as the bill faced its penultimate legal obstacle.

The bill, sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Hayabit Hayehudi) and set to be put to a vote at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, would require non-profits receiving more than half of their funding from foreign governments note it in official publicity. In practice, the legislation would affect left-wing organizations almost exclusively.

The legislation is expected to receive the support of all the coalition's factions, as its passage into law was promised to Hayabit Hayehudi as part of its coalition agreement with Netanyahu.

The opposition is exerting pressure on Netanyahu and coalition members in an attempt to prevent the vote. Concern regarding the legislation was also expressed in Europe in recent weeks. At the beginning of the month, four senior lawmakers from Germany warned Netanyahu that advancement of the legislation would make it harder for Israel's allies in Germany to aid it in the face of boycotts or attempts to delegitimize it.

However, according to a source close to the prime minister, at present Netanyahu isn’t planning to prevent the vote.

MK Michael Oren, from the coalition's Kulanu party, said that he would not support the bill in its current form when it is brought to a Knesset vote.

"As someone who has worked his entire life to advance the State of Israel's foreign affairs, my conscience does not allow me to vote for the non-profits bill as it is drafted today," said Oren, a former ambassador to the U.S.

"The non-profits bill that is reaching a vote at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation today is a bill that could harm Israel's foreign relations and image," he added.

"I have no doubt that left-wing non-profits such as Breaking the Silence are working to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel, and it is our duty as lawmakers to reveal their funding sources to the public. But such one-sided exposure, which ignores the funding sources of extreme-right non-profits, might play exactly into the hands of those elements that are trying to boycott us," Oren said.

In addition to requiring that non-profits that receive more than half their funding from foreign governments note it publicly, the bill demands that the organizations provide details regarding the countries funding their activity in any communication with elected officials. Violators of the provisions would be subject to a 29,000 shekel ($7,500) fine. Representatives of the groups would also be required to wear a special tag at Knesset sessions.