Friday October 9, 2015
Israel Hayom
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MK Ofir Akunis

A law to strengthen democracy

I do not know of any country in the world that tolerates external interference in its domestic affairs. It is hard for me to think of a single Israeli who would tolerate money transfers from Israel's budget to support political organizations in Britain, Holland or France. I would also expect that other countries would treat Israel the way it treats them. Yet foreign countries have transferred dozens of millions of shekels to radical left-wing organizations – funding those whose purpose is to indirectly affect the public and political discourse in Israel.

We must put an end to this absurd situation. In order to do this, we must have legislation. Why? Because when a foreign country, even one that is a friend of Israel, funds Peace Now, which in turn uses the money to "track" construction in Judea and Samaria, it is interference. When another country funds "Breaking the Silence," which informs on the activities of IDF officers and solders, and in turn "recommends" indicting them for their actions in those very countries, it is interference. When another country funds the organization "Ir Amim," whose goal is to bring about the division and internationalization of Jerusalem, it is gross interference. And these are just a few examples of foreign funding for Israeli political organizations.

As a sovereign state, Israel is entitled to handle domestic and foreign affairs according to what it sees fit, and according to what the Israeli voter expresses at the ballot box.

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If countries such as Britain and France want to disagree with Israel's policies, they have acceptable diplomatic channels at their disposal to do so.

The purpose of my proposed legislation, which would limit donations to political NGOs from foreign countries to NIS 20,000 per year, is to correct the current warped situation in which funds transferred from foreign countries affect Israel through its "back door." Of course, it is not at all surprising that these funds are directed only to radical left-wing organizations in Israel.

All of the "bleeding hearts" who oppose this law say that it harms freedom of speech. Others say that it will damage our foreign relations. There is not a grain of truth to this. Every individual in Israel is free to say what he or she wants. This bill does not deal with that at all.

I, personally, will continue to stand up for my opponents' right to express their views, even if they are inflammatory or outrageous. Also, the positive relations with these countries who are sending these funds will be preserved, after we explain to them that we respect their donations to charities and other organizations that deal with welfare, education, culture, art or environmental protection. But we will not accept funds for political NGOs just as Israel does not fund their political NGOs.

* * *

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation will discuss on Sunday a bill that seeks to correct this distorted situation that has gone on for too many years. We have the duty and responsibility to end this absurd situation that no other sovereign state would ever accept. Not only does this law not weaken Israeli democracy, it in fact strengthens it!

The writer is the deputy Knesset speaker and the sponsor of the above-mentioned bill. The proposed law was submitted with Yisrael Beitenu MK Robert Ilatov.

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