Knesset Panel to Rule if NGO Bill Would Also Apply to Private Donors, Right-wing Groups

The latest version of the bill specifies that organizations that receive most of their funding from 'private foreign elements' will be subject to reporting requirements.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
MK Nissan Slomiansky at the Knesset, 2014.
MK Nissan Slomiansky at the Knesset, 2014.Credit: Michal Fattal
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The latest version of the so-called NGO bill would extend its disclosure requirements to private donations from abroad, rather than only funding from foreign governments.

The bill was passed by the Knesset in preliminary reading last week and was returned to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for adjustments before the second and third votes needed to pass it into law.

The committee will convene Tuesday and decide whether to adopt the amended version.

If the change is adopted, it would mean that some of the transparency requirements that would otherwise be imposed almost solely on organizations affiliated with the left would also be required of organizations that receive funds from private organizations and individuals, many of which are affiliated with the right.

Last week the Justice Ministry issued a list of the nongovernmental organizations that would be required to divulge foreign government funding.

Of the 27 nongovernmental organizations that were listed, 25 are human-rights organizations, generally associated with the left.

The latest version of the bill, which was distributed to members of the Knesset committee, specifies that organizations that receive most of their funding from “private foreign elements” will be subject to reporting requirements.

A confidentiality clause that was added to the bill specifies that nondisclosure of a foreign donor’s identity is permitted in accordance with the provisions of the organization’s financial reporting requirements or the Nonprofit Association Law.

The preamble to the draft law makes it clear that its application to organizations receiving private foreign funding would be different from its application to nongovernmental organizations receiving foreign government funding because of the different nature of private donations.

“The report on a donation from a private foreign entity shall be annually and not quarterly,” the preamble states.

“Moreover, it will be possible to hide the names of private donors in accordance with today’s Nonprofit Association Law; if the donation is under 20,000 shekels ($5,168) or at the discretion of the registrar, who takes into account, inter alia, the ratio of the donation to the nongovernmental organizations’s turnover; the size of the donation, the reasonableness of the request, the importance of public transparency and the need to preserve the ability to raise funds by protecting donors’ anonymity.”

The chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Nissan Slomiansky, said that he did not think that the new clause would be approved by the panel.

“The whole purpose of the bill is to reduce the influence and intervention by foreign countries in Israel’s democratic life,” Slomiansky said.

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