Livni: Bill to Probe NGOs Is Anti-democratic, Hurts Israel

Contentious bill on probe of human rights groups sparks stormy debate in Knesset; Netanyahu believes majority will vote down measure proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu following pressure on Likud MKs.

The contentious bill calling for investigation into funding of human rights organizations in Israel sparked a stormy debate in the Knesset on Wednesday when it was presented for a vote. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office believes that it has gathered enough votes to prevent the passage of the bill.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni was vocal in her condemnation of the proposal Wednesday, saying it damaged Israel's interests.

lieberman - Emil Salman - July 20 2011
Emil Salman

"A dark wind is blowing through the country - created by Netanyahu's coalition," Livni said during the Knesset debate."Beyond being an anti-democratic [proposal] it also harms the interests of the State of Israel…. The idea that MKs want to investigate citizens who are not party to their views is horrifying."

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) sarcastically praised Lieberman’s initiative for bringing Israel “one step closer to 1984,” suggesting the probe would constitute a Big Brother-like infringement on democratic values. Tibi further stated that “the current Knesset outdoes itself, over and over, in its McCarthyist ways”.

The bill has been harshly condemned by organizations such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which has openly refused to participate in any such investigation, and instead will continue to “act firmly in the pursuit of human rights for all.”

Tzipi Livni - Emil Salman - July 2011
Emil Salman

Americans for Peace Now also spoke out against the bill, stating that American Jews “must do everything…to stop these appalling attacks on what makes the Jewish state so central to our value-system."

Throughout Tuesday night, Netanyahu's office applied pressure on Likud MKs to vote against the bill that was put forth by the Yisrael Beiteinu party.

An analysis by Haaretz has determined that the draft law will fall short by a few votes, assuming that Likud MKs who oppose the proposal show up to vote against it. The precise voting patterns for some parties in the Knesset, including Habayit Hayehudi and United Torah Judaism, are not known.

Netanyahu has said he would vote against the bill but even before his announcement it became apparent that most of his Likud cabinet colleagues opposed it. The majority of Likud MKs, however, are thought to support the measure.

The Yisrael Beiteinu initiative was revived in light of the recent passage of the controversial boycott law, a Likud party proposal, which allows a person or an organization to be sued if they call for the boycott of Israel or the settlements.

Coalition member Yisrael Beiteinu said it would demand a roll call vote, in which each MK is asked to state how they voted, rather than relying solely on a secret ballot. That might keep some right-wing MKs who nevertheless oppose the investigative committees from voting in order to avoid damaging their popularity with their constituents. Likud party workers have been lobbying their party's MKs to support the draft bill.

Kadima has said it would impose party discipline in voting against the bill but it remains to be seen whether all MKs will report for today's vote. The votes of Kadima MKs Otniel Schneller and Yulia Shamalov Berkovich are specifically not known at this stage.