'Softened' Version of Controversial NGO Bill Forgoes ID Tags in Knesset

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Protesters against the new bill 'marking' foreign-funded NGOs outside Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's house, December 27, 2015.
Protesters against the new bill 'marking' foreign-funded NGOs outside Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's house, December 27, 2015.Credit: Moti Milrod

The cabinet has filed a toned-down version of the so-called "NGO transparency bill," the latest legislative endeavor to cause Israel trouble in global circles.

The softened version accepts one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's two demands, and does not include the original requirement that representatives of NGOs receiving foreign funding wear special badges in Knesset (and when visiting ministries too). However, Netanyahu's second demand, that the law apply to all NGOs that receive foreign funding from the very first dollar, does not appear in the new version.

The bill has been supported by Netanyahu throughout and has been sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who found herself defending it against the international uproar.

The Justice Ministry published the new version on its website Monday. The present form of the bill repeats the original qualification – that NGOs receiving over half their funding from abroad would have to reveal their funding sources.

Shaked is expected to bring the new version of the bill before the Knesset, for its first reading into law, next Monday.

Despite the differences between the original version of the bill that Shaked has been sponsoring and this one, sources near the justice minister say the new version is indeed hers. They add that the prime minister's comments on it will be integrated into the bill after its first (of three) readings into law, in the framework of the Knesset committee that prepares the bill for its second and third readings into law.

The "NGO transparency bill" is being submitted by the cabinet as a whole. Upon its enactment into law, assuming it passes, the duty of transparency will apply to any association or organization that received most of its funding in the last fiscal year, or the one before it, from donations received from "foreign diplomatic entities," as such are defined in law.

The NGOs will have to disclose which nations exactly donated money to them in any publication through billboards, the media, television, Internet or the press, and in all communications in writing to elected officials or government officials. Representatives of the NGOs will also have to cite the information that their organizations received foreign funding during any discussion of which minutes are kept.

Discussing the bill some days ago, Netanyahu remarked, "I fail to understand how greater transparency is undemocratic Transparency is the heart of democracy. When you hear about the use and abuse of NGOs here – transparency is the least we want and is much warranted and it is common sense. Israel is being held to a different standard here."

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