Netanyahu's Changes to 'Transparency Bill' Could Affect Right-wing NGOs

The version of the bill being promoted by the PM, who said that all foreign government funding should be disclosed from the first shekel, would mean the law would apply to groups such as 'World Yisrael Beiteinu.'

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the PM's office in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the PM's office in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2016.Credit: AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Knesset sources were wondering on Sunday whether the version of the so-called "NGO transparency bill" being promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would apply equally to all nonprofits funded by foreign governments, after he said that all foreign contributions must be disclosed from the very first shekel.

That would mean the law would also apply to associations such as "World Yisrael Beiteinu", the global organization of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party.

The original bill, sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, would require nonprofits receiving more than half of their funding from foreign governments to officially note it in their official publications. In practice, detractors argued, the legislation would affect left-wing organizations almost exclusively.

PM Netanyahu doesn't think reps of nonprofits funded by foreigners should have to wear name-tags, as Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, shown here, proposesCredit: Olivier Fitoussi

Speaking in cabinet Sunday, Netanyahu said the bill approved by the ministerial legislative committee three weeks ago needed some changes to adapt it to the law in the United States. While reiterating his approval for the bill, the prime minister said the demand that representatives of the association be marked by tags should be removed.

It bears noting that the final wording of the bill has yet to be presented.

World Yisrael Beiteinu did report receiving income from foreign sources in the past, according to the Israeli Corporations Authority, which is responsible for registration, supervision, enforcement and control over most of the corporations and nonprofits in Israel. (In 2014 World Israel Beiteinu  was headed by Ronen Shoval, among the founders of the Im Tirtzu movement, and the man who spearheaded the campaign against the New Fund at the time.)

Netanyahu's formula could apply the bureaucratic requirements of the bill to nonpolitical associations as well. Cultural institutions such as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Israel Festival have received foreign donations in the past, for instance.

Meanwhile, the prime minister, who agreed to promote the bill under coalition agreements, has found himself under international pressure over it. The American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, voiced Washington's concerns last week, saying that in contrast to Shaked's assertions, American law has nothing similar whatsoever.

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