Yisrael Beiteinu Bugged by PM's Backing of Likud Bill

Netanyahu backing bill to curtail donations to leftist groups backed by Likud, not Yisrael Beitenu; party sources said issue would not cause coalition crisis, but emphasized anger against Netanyahu in their party.

Yisrael Beiteinu is upset over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stated intention to promote a bill sponsored by members of his Likud party to curtail donations to leftist organizations. Sources in Yisrael Beiteinu said they were surprised by Netanyahu's decision, which he did not coordinate with them, and angry that he is favoring the Likud bill over a similar one introduced by Yisrael Beiteinu MK Fania Kirshenbaum.

They also threatened to torpedo a planned vote on the rival bill at next Sunday's meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.

Fania Kirshenbaum - Emil Salman
Emil Salman

"The decision to promote the bill by [Likud MKs] Tzipi Hotovely and Ofir Akunis was not coordinated with us, despite the fact that the prime minister knows Yisrael Beiteinu is putting forth an important bill on the same issue," one Yisrael Beiteinu member told Haaretz yesterday. "We will fight for Kirshenbaum's bill and not let the cabinet prefer Likud's bill."

The Yisrael Beiteinu sources said the issue would not cause a coalition crisis, but emphasized the extent of the anger against Netanyahu in their party. "It looks as though the prime minister is drunk with power, and is offering a sop to the right over the [planned] razing of settlement outposts at Yisrael Beiteinu's expense."

The Hotovely-Akunis bill, which would place a cap of NIS 20,000 on donations from foreign states to Israeli political organizations, is considered problematic from a constitutional perspective because of the difficulty in defining a "political" organization.

Kirshenbaum's draft law, in contrast, is clearer: It imposes a hefty, 45 percent tax on donations from foreign states to any Israeli nongovernmental organization that does not receive state funding. That means charity and rescue organizations like the Magen David Adom ambulance service would be exempt, but human rights organizations associated with the left would be hurt.

The Yisrael Beiteinu sources said that if the Likud bill were passed, it would make Kirshenbaum's narrower bill superfluous.

Kirshenbaum yesterday called her bill "an important weapon in the war against the delegitimization of the State of Israel overseas," adding, "I expect the prime minister to support it."

The preamble to the bill introduced by Kirshenbaum states: "There are organizations active in Israel whose goal is denouncing the State of Israel to the world at large and transforming Israel Defense Forces soldiers and officers into wanted men while defaming their reputations. Such organizations receive financing from foreign sources and states, and the goal of this funding is to undermine and alter the public discourse in Israel."