Amnesty International protest
Amnesty International protest Reuters

The Knesset Finance Committee headed by MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) discussed the conditions required of public institutions and non-profit organizations to receive tax exemptions under section 46 of the Income Tax Ordinance and section 61 of the Land Taxation Law.

The meeting was attended by a number of Knesset members, including Oded Forer of Yisrael Beiteinu, Bezalel Smotrich of Jewish Home, Itzik Shmuli of the Zionist Union and Meretz MKs Michal Rozin and Mossi Raz. Representatives of left-wing organizations including a representative of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel also attended the conference.

The committee was also attended by Attorney Nati Rom, founder of the Lev Haolam organization that called to cancel Israel's recognition of Amnesty International that called to boycott products from settlements, and only recently called for an embargo on Israel following the riots on the Gaza border.

At the beginning of the meeting, MK Gafni said in light of the fact that the Justice Ministry had not yet formulated a position on the matter, the vote would be postponed.

In the debate, MK Mossi Raz claimed a vote to lift a tax exemption from a certain organization should be passed only by a "100 percent" majority in the committee.

According to MK Smotrich, this is not how things are done and is unconstitutional: "We're in a representative democracy, not direct and not by referendum. The legislator has given us authority and requires us to use it."

Smotrich said the law states that a body calling for a boycott of Israel will not be accepted under an Article 46 tax exemption, adding: "Amnesty calls for a boycott of the State of Israel - according to law, someone calling for a boycott will not be accepted. A body that acts contrary to the law, such as a missionary body, for example, can't get Article 46."

The committee legal advisor admitted that in the event the association's activity is illegal, it should not be approved for recognition and tax exemption. She said a two-thirds majority had been decided "to examine deep public controversy" and admitted it was an unusual vote.

MK Forer said "it's inconceivable for the State to grant tax exemptions to organizations and companies that harm it."

At the conclusion of the debate, Adv. Rom spoke about the organization's goals and said, "It's unacceptable that organizations that harm us and violate the law will be budgeted. It's unacceptable that such organizations even make it to committee. They should have been rejected already in the Finance Ministry and whoever does make it past them, it's forbidden to fund them and this is against the law."

After the debate, MK Gafni announced that the vote would be held at the next meeting of the committee.