Daily Israel Report

Leftists Shocked: Gov't Votes to Limit Foreign Funding of NGOs

Ministers vote 11:5 to limit donations from foreign governments to political organizations to NIS 20,000 per year.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/13/2011, 4:30 PM

Peace Now posters at a rally
Peace Now posters at a rally
Flash 90

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted Sunday to support a bill limiting the funding that political non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may receive from foreign governments and international bodies to NIS 20,000 shekels. The bill was authored by MKs Ofir Akunis and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu) .

The Committee also voted in favor of a bill submitted by MK Faina Kirshenbaum (Yisrael Beitenu) that would deprive NGOs that rely on foreign funding of tax exempt status and levy a 45% tax on foreign donations. The limitation would not be applied to NGOs that also receive government funding, so that educational and social welfare NGOs will still be tax-exempt.

Bills that receive the approval of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation are considered to be relatively certain of passing in the Knesset. 

The ministers supporting the bills included Limor Livnat, Gilad Erdan, Yossi Peled, Gidon Sa'ar and Moshe Cachlon (Likud), Yitzchak Aharonovich, Sofa Landver, Yuli Edlestein and Stes Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beitenu) and Daniel Hershkovitz (Jewish Home).

Ministers Benny Begin, Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor (Likud) opposed the bills, as did ministers Shalom Simchon and Orit Noked (Independence). Begin, Eitan and Meridor filed immediate appeals against the decisions in order to force a debate in the Cabinet. 

The leftist camp in Israel is extremely upset by the bills, which would deprive it of much of its power. Foreign funding is the source of many of the left's public relations campaigns and lobbying groups.

Proponents of the bills note that the American Foreign Agent Act provides similar protection against foreign meddling in U.S. affairs. Opponents say the bills are anti-democratic and stifle free speech.