After it rejected dozens of objections, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday approved for its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum a bill which would require nongovernmental organizations that get more than half their funding from foreign governments or governmental agencies to make the public servants and elected officials they meet with aware of this and also report it in all their written publicity material.
The committee decided to merge three bills: one that was sponsored by the government and two other proposed by MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu) and Bezalel Smotrich (HaBayit HaYehudi).
(Committee votes on NGO bill)
NGOs that will violate the so-called NGO bill will be fined NIS 29,200. The law, if passed, will not apply retroactively, meaning these organizations will not have to declare such contributions that were received in the past. Under the bill, the law will go into effect in January 2017 and will only apply to donations received from then on.
MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid) said, ”In the absence of leadership, you are bringing laws. The soccer player Messi resigned, British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, but only in Israel people don`t take responsibility for their actions.”
MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) said, ”If it were up to MK Smotrich, the law would differentiate between Jewish and Arab donors. The law is devoid of any legal content.”
MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) said the bill ”shames and slanders NGOs which criticize the government`s work. Someone recently said that there are buds of fascism in the country. That is what there is in this law – buds of fascism against organizations that promote human rights.”
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said the bill clearly ”persecutes” NGOs, and called to ”throw out of the Knesset legislators who introduce such bizarre laws.”
MK Osama Sa`adi (Joint List) said, ”There is a person who contributes tens of millions of dollars to an NGO through a company that is listed in Panama. If we are talking about transparency, then an NGO which is hiding its funds should reveal its sources [of funding].”
MK Benny Begin (Likud) said the legislation may produce results that do not coincide with the legislator`s intention. ”We should operate with diplomatic means,” he argued. ”This was proven by the negotiations with Holland, Britain and Switzerland.”
MK Revital Swid (Zionist Camp) said the bill was introduced solely ”for the political gain of parties that want to show their public that they acted and labelled.” MK Micky Rosenthal (Zionist Camp) stated that the purpose of the law is to ”poke in the eye and say `Here, we did it to you on purpose.`” He said NGOs will easily find a way to circumvent the law.
After the bill was approved by a vote of 7-6, Constitution Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky (HaBayit HaYehudi) said the bill was revised to avoid any harm. Addressing members of the opposition, he said, ”You also admit that nothing much is left of [the bill].”