Parliamentary Inquiry Into New Israel Fund Will Be Toothless, Coalition Whip Says

Coalition whip David Amsalem tells Kan radio that Netanyahu's inquiry into NIF won’t have any powers. It aims to raise the subject for public debate

From left: Prof. Shlomo Mor Yosef, Arye Dery, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Meir Ben Shabbat and 
Avigdor Yitzhaki,  April 2, 2018.
Amos Ben Gershom/ Government Press Office

The investigation into the New Israel Fund’s activity that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to launch won’t have any powers, however, the entire purpose is to raise the subject for public debate, coalition whip David Amsalem told Kan radio on Wednesday.

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Netanyahu broached the concept of the inquiry into New Israel Fund on Tuesday, claiming that the fund, a U.S.-based human rights organization, was behind the Rwandan government’s decision to pull out of a previous agreement to deport African asylum seekers.

Claiming the fund aspires to erase Israel’s Jewish identity, Netanyahu elaborated that it “jeopardizes the security and future of the State of Israel as the country of the Jewish people.”

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The New Israel Fund replied that the prime minister had crossed every red line with his remarks.

On Tuesday, speaking to Kan radio separately, New Israel Fund director Mickey Gitzin said that anybody who wants to look into the fund is welcome to do so. Talk about a panel of inquiry is “spin,” Gitzin told Kan in a different interview. He called Netanyahu’s claim that the New Israel Fund dissuaded Rwanda from accepting refugees “an utter lie” and added that its activity had all been in Israel.

New Israel Fund director Mickey Gitzin, 2017.

Opposition leader Avi Gabbay, the head of the Labor Party, posted on Facebook that “the public won’t buy the pathetic, dangerous” incitement against civilians, this time the New Israel Fund.

“The New Israel Fund isn’t responsible for the state of affairs in south Tel Aviv,” Gabbay said, referring to discontent among Israelis living there about the population of Africa refugees living there. Nor is the New Israel Fund responsible for the high cost of living in Israel, the housing crisis or the polarization of Israeli society, Gabbay added.

Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg also cast her support behind the New Israel Fund on Tuesday, tweeting that she had donated money to them, and adding, “Join in solidarity against incitement.”

Last year the coalition, led by Netanyahu, considered establishing an inquiry in the Knesset into the activity of left-wing organizations. Nothing came of the notion, after Knesset legal counsel Eyal Yinon pointed out that the Knesset doesn’t have the authority to set up ideology-driven inquiries– “any inquiry engaging, in practice, an ideological investigation of civilian bodies in Israel, on left or right."

Yinon also wrote that civilian entities may operate freely and with minimal meddling by state authorities, within the relatively limited legal constraints on freedom of expression and freedom of association.