Rightist MK Expected to Head Probe Into Israel's Leftist NGOs

Panel of inquiry into human rights' group sources of funding gets Knesset support despite widespread opposition; National Union MK Michael Ben Ari: I will protect Israel from haters both at home and abroad.

Right-wing lawmaker Michael Ben Ari is expected to be appointed head of a parliamentary panel of inquiry investigating the sources of funding for left-wing Israeli human rights groups.

The National Union MK, who was informed of the decision on Wednesday by coalition whip Ze'ev Elkin, welcomed the news as a chance to ensure that the investigation be carried out as justly as possible.

MK Michael Ben-Ari
Tess Scheflan

"The MKs from Balad and United Arab List know that I will deal with them and their friends just as I promised," Ben-Ari said, referring to the two major Israeli Arab factions. "I will protect the State of Israel from all sorts of haters, both at home and away, who wish to see it destroyed."

Lawmakers from the Israeli Arab factions and from the Labor Party are planning to boycott the two panels of inquiry approved by the Knesset plenum. One of the panels will investigate where Leftist NGOs have been acquiring their funding and the second will deal with enforcement of land laws.

However paradoxically, Ben-Ari can consider himself the pick of the Israeli Arab factions, since when they announced their boycott of the committees, they recommended Ben-Ari for the job, saying "the position suits him."

The initiative regarding the Leftist NGOs, brought forth by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu faction, will focus its assessments particularly on whether the money in question is coming from foreign states or even organizations deemed to be involved in terrorist activities.

The move has been opposed by politicians, activists and intellectuals alike, including President Shimon Peres, called on the Knesset to reject the proposal on the grounds that the matter should be dealt with by law enforcement officials and not lawmakers.

"The investigation of organizations, from the left or the right, must be left to law enforcement, which is the expert, objective system and has all the proper investigative tools," Peres said last week, in response to a question from Haaretz.

More than 60 Israeli law professors signed a petition prior to that and thousands took to the streets of Tel Aviv in a mass protest over the proposal.