'Transparency Law' passes first reading

Knesset passes bill criticized by the left that would require NGOs to disclose their sources of funding.

Ben Ariel,

Shaked speaks before vote on Transparency Law
Shaked speaks before vote on Transparency Law
Hadas Parush/Flash 90

The Knesset on Monday night approved the first reading of the so-called “Transparency Law”, initiated by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

The bill would require Israeli NGOs who receive more than half of their funds from foreign states to disclose their sources of funding and identify themselves as "foreign agents" when lobbying MKs.

50 MKs voted in favor of the bill and 43 voted against.

The bill has been criticized due to the fact that it will only affect left-wing organizations, who receive funding from European countries and the United States, as opposed to right-wing groups who are more likely to be funded by private donors.

Ambassador Dan Shapiro as well as EU ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen met with Shaked in recent weeks to voice concerns. They, as well as envoys from individual European nations, have also attempted to meet with coalition MKs in a bid to derail the legislation. 

Shaked's bill has also faced the objection of opposition parties, with the Yesh Atid faction even going so far as to file a no-confidence motion based on the proposed legislation.

But Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week rejected the criticism, saying the law is meant to generate greater transparency on the activities of foreign governments within Israeli democracy, adding that the bill "has been met with complaints from those who usually support transparency."

"This bill is right, democratic and necessary, and this bill will pass," the Prime Minister stressed.

Speaking before Monday evening’s vote, Shaked blasted the leftist parties which criticized the initiative, saying, "After years in which the left used transparency as an administrative tool against the right, you began to think that you own transparency. As if transparency is a property which is registered in your father’s name. You in the left cry out at the very use of the term ‘transparency’ as if something that belongs to you was taken away.”

“Transparency does not belong to you,” she continued. “And it turns out that you will need to accept the fact that sometimes this important issue will be promoted by members of leftist parties and sometimes by members of rightist parties. Integrity, transparency and good governance are matters that are not promoted by only one party in this room. These are values ​​we should all aspire to, even if sometimes it is less pleasant for you.”

“Most of you,” continued Shaked, “are disconnected from democracy and the rule of majority. In your definition, democracy is the rule of justice. Of course, you think that only you know how to define what is just. Justice is another idea you might think is registered under your name.”

During Shaked’s speech, Meretz MKs Issawi Frej and Tamar Zandberg were removed from the plenum for interrupting the Justice Minister.

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon blasted Shaked’s remarks and said, "The Justice Minister uttered the name of transparency in vain. You speak of transparency? Why did not you report to us on the identity of your anonymous donors, one of whom is suspected of drug and weapons trafficking?”

“This is not transparency; it is political persecution,” continued Galon. “Those who slander Israel are actually Ayelet Shaked and her settler friends. The world hates Israel not because of what the [leftist] organizations make public, but because of the occupation."




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