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Netanyahu throws in with Lieberman on legislation targeting dissident NGO’s

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Israeli P.M. Netanyahu, after a standoff with Foreign Minister Lieberman over the controversial NGO funding bill, is now moving to revive the legislation. Lieberman, as chairman of Likud coalition partner Yisrael Beitenu, has long been determined to pass the legislation, which Netanyahu distanced himself from last month.

Arutz 7 speculates that Lieberman’s intransigence has finally gotten the better of Netanyahu. In a sign of coalition reconciliation, the new bill is being sponsored by member of Likud and a member of Yisrael Beitenu. The Israeli left has reacted strongly against the bill, as have the NGOs that the bill targets (especially those that provided data for the UN fact-finding mission to Gaza that produced the Goldstone Report).

According to Arutz 7, there will be three government categories for NGOs:

1. NGOs “that reject Israel’s right to exist, incite racism, support violence against Israel, support trying Israeli soldiers or officials in international courts, call for boycotts of Israel, or issue calls for IDF personnel to disobey orders” will be ineligible to receive funds from foreign donors. Arutz 7 asserts that Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) and Yesh Gvul, an association of Israeli refuseniks, fall under this rubric.

2. “Political organizations that do not fall in the prohibited category” will be allowed to receive foreign funds, but these donations will incur a 45% tax rate. Arutz 7 singles out Peace Now, B’Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights as organizations that would fall into this category.

3. “Non-political organizations that receive [Israeli] state funding will be tax exempt and may receive unlimited donations from foreign governments.” Arutz 7 asserts that this includes “purely welfare and educational organizations.”

The Israeli government will establish the criteria for “political” and “non-political” designations. According to Haaretz, the bill’s sponsors have not yet settled on what criteria will define “a political organization.”

For “political organizations that do not fall in the prohibited category,” i.e., Peace Now, it is possible that they can appeal against the 45% tax rate by going before the Knesset Finance Committee to argue for a waiver. They will have a tough time if they do so with this government, however. The Knesset Finance Committee is chaired by United Torah Judaism KM Moshe Gafni. United Torah Judaism is a pro-settlement, ultra-Orthodox coalition.
According to the pro-Israel watchdog NGO Monitor, significant amounts of foreign funding for these groups comes from EU governments and charities like Oxfam. Haaretz is less specific on the matter, but notes that between 1/4 and 1/2 of certain leftist groups’ funding comes from overseas donors.

Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.

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7 Responses

  1. Potsherd2 on December 4, 2011, 1:36 pm

    Netanyahu has already made more concessions to foreign pressure than Lieberman likes. The US govt has already officially condemned the legislation. This may be the showdown.

  2. Chaos4700 on December 4, 2011, 2:11 pm

    This IN NO WAY looks like 1930’s German nationalism. Just saying.

  3. piotr on December 4, 2011, 11:46 pm

    Shapiro [US ambassador] said that all projects funded by the U.S. government are apolitical and are not controversial. However, he added, the bill is too broad and therefore there are concerns that NGOs aided by the U.S. administration will be harmed.

    And another bill authorizing Ministry to education to erect pillories on campuses to display traitorous academicians may also too broad and may be too easily be used to evoke unfortunate images from Middle Ages.

  4. Sumud on December 5, 2011, 4:02 am

    Yet another example of self-defeating behaviour which will definitely cause sane and rational people to abandon Israel, if they haven’t already. One more step in the long march to violent fascism…

    The question remains: how bad will things get before the US says “no more”? Is America really going to let itself go down with Israel?

  5. john h on December 5, 2011, 8:52 pm

    This apparent reconciliation with Lieberman is simply a tactical move.

    Netanyahu is looking ahead and striking while it seems the iron is hot.

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