Knesset Expected to Reject Proposal to Probe Israeli NGOs

Yisrael Beiteinu plans to demand a roll-call vote, to embarrass MKs on the right who vote against or skip the vote.

The Knesset is slated to vote tomorrow on whether to set up two parliamentary inquiry committees to investigate the funding sources of nongovernmental organizations. But because the proposal has little support even within the coalition, it is expected to fail by a large majority.

"Knesset members are expected to reject the proposal to establish the committees of inquiry by a large majority, especially after the prime minister announced that he would oppose the proposal and allow Likud members to vote their consciences," a source in the coalition leadership said.

Avigdor Lieberman - Emil Salman - July 2011
Emil Salman

But Yisrael Beiteinu - whose MK Fania Kirshenbaum sponsored the proposal along with Danny Danon (Likud ) - said that even if it lost tomorrow's vote, it planned to keep resubmitting the proposal in the hope that it would eventually pass.

"We plan to present it immediately for another vote if it fails tomorrow," Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu) told Haaretz yesterday. "We think the establishment of the committee is vital to the defense of the State of Israel."

The party plans to demand a roll-call vote, to embarrass MKs on the right who vote against it or skip the vote.

Meanwhile, three of the targeted NGOs - Yesh Din, Adalah and Breaking the Silence - said yesterday that they planned to file a slander suit against Yisrael Beiteinu's leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for having called them "terrorist organizations" on Sunday.

"These are neither left-wing organizations nor human rights organizations; they are terrorist organizations - groups that abet terror and people who actively participate in abetting terror," Lieberman said at Sunday's cabinet meeting.

"All these groups - Adalah, Ittijah, Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence, New Profile - submitted 90 percent of the skewed and false information to the Goldstone Commission. They are the same groups and the same people that were on the Mavi Marmara [i.e. last year's flotilla to Gaza] and prevented Israel Defense Forces soldiers from defending Israel. They are the same groups that gave the names of IDF officers and soldiers to courts around the world. They are the same people who were convicted of spying for Hezbollah and enemies of Israel."

In a letter to Lieberman yesterday, Michael Sfard, representing the three NGOs, vehemently rejected this description.

"Everything you said, from beginning to end, was false, unbridled, thuggish incitement," Sfard wrote. "Even you know that you haven't a shred of proof for any of the accusations your feverish imagination dreamed up. They [the NGOs] promote an agenda of protecting human rights, coexistence and peace, and your accusation of terrorist activity, espionage and aiding the enemy is a contemptible and unforgivable lie."

The letter asked Lieberman to waive his parliamentary immunity so the slander suit could proceed, adding that if he refuses, "the Israeli public will understand that you fear an investigation of the truth."

Also yesterday, 28 NGOs signed an open letter against the proposed parliamentary inquiry committees. "All the NGOs' donations come from foundations approved by government ministries and are obtained and reported in accordance with the law," they wrote.