Israel to develop law limiting foreign gov't funding to left-wing NGOs
Menahem Kahana (AFP/File)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced that his government will formulate new legislation that limits foreign government funding to Israeli nonprofits, in what is widely seen as his latest effort to crack down on left-wing organizations and human rights groups.
Speaking at a weekly gathering of his Likud faction, Netanyahu confirmed that he has tasked Tourism Minister Yariv Levin with developing the new law.
A separate "NGO law" passed last year set strict new transparency requirements on organizations receiving most of their funding from foreign governments, which critics denounced as likely to encourage a witch-hunt against leftist groups that campaign for the defense of Palestinian rights.
The new legislation in development will go one step further by limiting the amount of funding organizations can receive from foreign states altogether, Netanyahu explained.
“In Israel there is currently no limit on funneling money to all sorts of organizations, [including those that] among other things defame IDF soldiers,” the premier said.
“The situation, in my opinion, is not right,” he added.
Netanyahu was apparently referencing NGOs such as Breaking the Silence, an organization made up of IDF veterans which has a stated objective of gathering testimonies from members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who have served in the West Bank and Gaz, in order to document the conduct of soldiers in these areas, and B'tselem, a left-wing human rights NGO.
While such NGO laws do not explicitly refer to left-wing organizations, they are likely to be the most impacted as right-wing NGOs supporting Israel's presence in the West Bank tend instead to rely on private donations, particularly from the United States.
Netanyahu has in the past taken disciplinary action against foreign diplomats over their government's visits with representatives of Breaking the Silence and B'tselem in particular.
In April, Netanyahu scrapped a scheduled meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel after the latter refused to call off his visit to the two organizations.
In February, the Prime Minister summoned the Belgian ambassador in Israel for censure after Beligum Prime Minister Charles Michel met with representatives from the two groups.
Netanyahu's office said in a statement that the Prime Minister's "policy is not to meet with diplomats who visit Israel and meet with organizations that slander IDF soldiers and seek to prosecute them as war criminals."
B'Tselem drew a scathing rebuke from Netanyahu after delivering damning testimony at the United Nations on Israel's settlement activities in the West Bank in October.
The Prime Minister called to remove the group from a list of approved placements for Israeli national service volunteers, calling it a "shoddy an unhinged" organization.
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It's about time to keep out foreign governments out of our internal politics.