Knesset Probe Into Leftist NGOs Likely to Pass by Razor-thin Majority

Plenum vote on the two parliamentary panels of inquiry set for next Monday, with figures seemingly set at 61 in favor and 59 opposed.

The Knesset plenum is expected to approve by a margin next Monday a motion to convene two parliamentary committees of inquiry on the activities and funding sources of certain left-wing Israeli nongovernmental organizations.

The proposed committees, which were prompted at least in part by allegations that the organizations were engaged in delegitimizing the Israel Defense Forces, have been widely criticized as anti-democratic, and the bid to establish them currently enjoys only a razor-thin majority.

Leftist protesters in Tel Aviv on Saturday, June 5, 2010.
Nir Keidar

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Sunday approved a request by MK Yariv Levin, chairman of the House Committee, to hold a vote on the matter in another eight days,

According to figures gathered by Haaretz, 61 members of Knesset are considered likely to vote in favor of the committees while 59 are expected to oppose.

Among those on record as opposing the measure are Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud ) and three Likud cabinet ministers: Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan and Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin.

All 28 MKs from Kadima, which carries a significant percentage of the Knesset, are also expected to vote down the proposal, as are the eight Labor MKs, the five from Atzmaut, four from Hadash, three from Meretz, four from the United Arab List and the three from Balad.

With such a close margin, even a tiny shift of sentiment among MKs would be enough to kill the motion. And that seems quite possible, since some MKs who are on record as supporting the measure are wavering and may therefore switch sides.

Alternatively, in order not to harm their public images, they might not show up for the vote.

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon said last week that though the Knesset panels are not illegal, their establishment would set a dangerous precedent by only investigating organizations on one side of the political spectrum - the side "that is currently in opposition."

He also said the panels would be investigative committees in name only, as they would have even fewer investigative powers than regular Knesset committees.

"These committees, unlike [investigative] committees convened in the past, seek to engage in something that can been construed as narrowing and limiting rights fundamental to a democratic system of government," including freedom of expression, the right to protest and the right to organize politically, Yinon added.

The Knesset House Committee approved the composition of the two investigative committees by a vote of 10-7. One committee will be chaired by MK Fania Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beiteinu ) and the other by MK Danny Danon (Likud ).