Knesset May Vote Down Inquiry Into Leftist NGOs

The proposed committees were prompted by allegations that organizations were delegitimizing the IDF; inquiry has been widely criticized as undemocratic.

The Knesset might yet vote down a motion to convene two parliamentary committees of inquiry on the activities and funding sources of certain left-wing Israeli nongovernmental organizations, an examination by Haaretz shows.

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.

At present, 61 Knesset members are thought to support the measure, while 59 oppose it. Thus even a tiny shift of sentiment among MKs would be enough to kill it. 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.

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.

Earlier this week, Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon said 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.

On Wednesday, 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 ).

Also on Wednesday, Rivlin announced that despite personal reservations about the panels, there is no justification for delaying a vote by the full Knesset plenum on whether to convene them. Kadima MKs Orit Zuaretz and Shlomo Molla had asked him to postpone the vote in light of the opinion issued by the Knesset's legal adviser.

"Without a doubt, this constitutes a dangerous and problematic precedent," Rivlin said on Wednesday. Nevertheless, he added, the vote will be held without delay.

Kirshenbaum promised that if the plenum approves the panels, the one she is to chair will issue a comprehensive report with clear recommendations.

The Knesset, she added, has every right to look into the funding sources of organizations that "undermine the legitimacy of IDF soldiers."