Attorney General and Legal Advisor to the Government Yehuda Weinstein told members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation Sunday that he strenuously opposes the “NGO bill” that would heavily tax foreign donations to subversive NGOs.
The bill, introduced by MKs Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), would levy a 45% tax on foreign governments' donations to organizations that operate against the
IDF and support boycotts of Israel.
Weinstein said that the bill is “unconstitutional” – using a phrase that is popular among liberal jurists, and which has been criticized as manipulative, because Israel has no constitution.
He said that the bill runs counter to a slew of constitutional rights, first and foremost of which are freedom of expression and freedom of organization.
"In practice,” opined Weinstein, “this is not a tax at all but a fine, a kind of means of punishment, the intent of which is to create a chilling effect and stop donations to these NGOs, thus harming the free discourse in the state of Israel, which is one of the state's central democratic anchors.”
Weinstein added that the bill is “disproportional” and that there are more “proportional” ways of dealing with the issue the bill seeks to address. To the extent that the NGOs' discourse is illegal, there are other ways of dealing with them, including criminal prosecution, he said. If the discourse is legal and legitimate, the “proportional” way of dealing with it is by expanding the duty of the NGOs to disclose the source of the contributions, as is done in practice, he added.
The Attorney General's opposition to the bill may spell its doom, because leftist groups could file a motion to the High Court against the bill and Weinstein could then say that he cannot in good conscience represent the state in court to support the bill.
Watchdog group NGO Monitor, which routinely exposes much of the anti-Israel action of subversive NGOs. agrees with Weinstein. NGO Monitor stressed Sunday that it opposes punishment or fines for anti-Israel groups. “Legislative proposals that go beyond democratic transparency and accountability for these NGOs are ill advised, not enforceable, and damage Israel's vital national interests,” the group warned.