NGO probe knocked back by Likud opposition

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has informed all his Likud Party colleagues that they would not be bound by coalition discipline and could vote as they saw fit on the bill seeking to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate non-governmental organisations. The withdrawal of Likud support for the bill has all but ended its chances of being passed.

The idea for this probe had been promoted by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu. The bill proposed examining the role of NGOs in delegitimising the IDF and would probe their funding sources.

The turnaround by Netanyahu on this issue came following a rebellion led by Ministers Gidon Saar and Silvan Shalom erupted yesterday at a Likud faction meeting that saw strident opposition to the proposal.  Shalom and Saar joined ranks with four senior Likud members, Reuben Rivilin, Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Micky Eitan, who had already come out against the bill. At the conclusion of the meeting the prime minister decided to allow all faction members the freedom to vote as they saw fit on the bill. That decision ensured that there would not be a majority to approve forming the parliamentary inquiry committee.

The Likud decision came as a surprise to Yisrael Beiteinu, which asked Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin to postpone the vote that had been scheduled for Monday in order to allow it to try to muster a majority, an effort that currently appears not possible.

In related news, The Knesset yesterday passed a bill into law that requires NGOs to issue quarterly reports about funding they receive from foreign governments, and to reveal when they are backed by other countries in their websites and advertisements. The bill, which was sponsored by coalition chairman Zeev Elkin, passed its final reading by a 40-34 vote.