Bill barring completion of Israeli national service at B'Tselem heads to Knesset

Israeli human rights activists from the B'Tselem group, which documents violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories, march in east Jerusalem
Menahem Kahana (AFP/File)
Proposed bill follows testimony of left-wing NGO B'Tselem against Israeli settlements at UN Security Council

A proposed bill that would bar Israeli national service volunteers from working with organizations that receive most of their funding from foreign governments will head to parliament after being approved on Sunday by a ministerial committee for legislation.

The bill targets those organizations which receive more than 50 percent of their funding from foreign governments. It is seen as taking aim at left-wing Israeli human rights groups, many of which receive funding from the US and EU governments.

The proposed legislation will head to Knesset for a first reading in plenary, after being approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, Israel's Channel 10 reported.

The bill was initiated by Amir Ohana of the ruling Likud party after human rights NGOs B’Tselem and Peace Now testified against Israel's West Bank settlement building policies at a United Nations Security Council forum in October.

AFP/Jack Guez

Speaking at the meeting, called under the banner "Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution," B'Tselem executive director Hagai El-Ad accused Israeli security forces of ill-treatment of Palestinian civilians and called on the Security Council to take actions against Israel.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to remove the NGO from a list of organizations approved for national service volunteer work, undertaken by some young Israelis as an alternative to mandatory military service.

"Israeli democracy facilitates such shoddy and unhinged organizations as B’Tselem, but the majority of the public knows the truth," Netanyahu said at the time.

El-Ad said, however, that only three such volunteers had ever been involved with his organization.

El-Ad defended his statements, saying: "At the UNSC there wasn’t a single country that took the Israeli side, not one country that didn’t speak against the occupation and settlements. This is true of the United States and Britain, and of Russia and China that the prime minister says are our best friends now."

The Security Council declared Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal in a resolution adopted in 1979.

Read more:

- Israeli NGO defends UN settlement testimony after Netanyahu's scathing rebuke

- Israel to push bill barring calls for sanctions at international forums

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