Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked rejected Monday criticism by the U.S. government at the so-called "NGO transparency bill" she is spearheading. A few hours after U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro issued a rare statement about the meeting he held with Shaked, the minister issued a statement of her own demanding that the U.S. and EU governments not intervene in internal Israeli legislation.
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The bill would require Israeli NGOs that receive a majority of their funding from foreign governments to be labeled as such when in the Knesset.
"[Sunday] I met the American ambassador and was under the impression that the American administration's interest and concern is sincere," she said. "But there is no cause for concern. Israel is a strong democracy and as such there is no need for other nations to intervene in internal legislation. Our door is open to dialogue with friends," she added.
Shaked noted that an EU fund recently transferred funds to the human rights group B'Tselem to fight the proposed legislation. "It is the right of any organization in Israel to object to any legislation," she said. "But it is very strange to me that foreign governments extend their long arms into internal legislation processes."
On Sunday, Shapiro expressed his government’s concerns over the potential adverse effects of the bill that Shaked is pushing through the Knesset.
A senior American official remarked that Shapiro made it clear to Shaked that in contrast to her assertions, the bill has no similarity whatsoever to any legislation in the United States.
Shaked’s bill passed through the Ministerial Committee for Legislation a few weeks ago and is now being debated in the Knesset. The meeting between Shapiro and Shaked followed other meetings the ambassador has had in recent weeks with Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office officials, in which he informed them that the United States is dissatisfied with this bill. The ambassadors of Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and the European Union have conveyed similar messages that reached Shaked and the PMO.
On Monday, the U.S. embassy issued a highly irregular statement regarding the Shapiro-Shaked meeting.
The U.S. embassy stated: “The Ambassador noted that Israel is a strong and vibrant democracy, which gives substantial voice to all points of view and promotes a thriving, transparent civil society. He reiterated the United States’ view that such a free and functioning civil society is an essential element of a healthy democracy, and that governments must protect free expression and peaceful dissent and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard.”