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Daily Israel Report

Hague: Concerned Over Israel's NGO Legislation

Just hours before Prime Minister Netanyahu froze the NGO foreign funding bill, it was criticized by Britain's Foreign Secretary.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/8/2011, 1:10 AM

William Hague and Binyamin Netanyahu
William Hague and Binyamin Netanyahu
Flash 90

British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed his concern on Wednesday over the Knesset bill that would restrict foreign funding to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

In a statement he released, Hague wrote, “Britain is deeply concerned by proposals to pass legislation in the Israeli Knesset that would limit foreign funding of NGOs. This would have a serious impact on projects funded from the UK and elsewhere to support universal rights and values and would be seen as undermining the democratic principles the Israeli state is founded on.”

“While the passing of legislation is a matter for the Israeli Knesset,” Hague added, “we strongly call upon all involved to reconsider this move and for the Israeli Government to make clear its own opposition to it.”

Hague’s comments came several hours before Prime Minister Binyamin decided to freeze the discussions of the bill.

The decision, which marks Netanyahu's second reversal on the same issue in less than a week, came after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein informed Netanyahu he would not defend the bill should it be challenged in court. Weinstein claims the so-called Law of Associations is "unconstitutional."

As a result, Netanyahu reportedly decided to postpone a Cabinet discussion of the bill slated for later this week.

Last week it was reported that Netanyahu was looking at rewording and watering down the proposed NGO bill, so that it would distinguish between three types of NGOs.

The first group will be absolutely prohibited to accept any donations from foreign countries. It would include NGOs that support refusal to serve in the IDF, boycotts of Israel or an armed struggle against Israel. This group would include NGOs such as Adalah and Yesh Gvul.

The second group, consisting of purely welfare and educational organizations such as Magen David Adom and the Hebrew University, will be allowed to receive unlimited contributions.

Organizations in the third group are political in nature and will be required to pay a 45% tax for contributions they receive, unless their heads come before the Knesset for a hearing and are exempted from the tax. NGOs in this group would include the radical left Peace Now, B’Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights.

The leftist camp is fighting the proposed legislation furiously, as their power comes from foreign funding. Foreign funding is the source of many of the left's public relations campaigns and lobbying groups.