Biden demands Israel drop NGO bill in exchange for White House invite, Saudi peace deal

Biden administration reportedly dangles offer of streamlined Saudi normalization, White House visit in exchange for Netanyahu shelving legislation aimed at limiting foreign funding to NGOs in Israel.

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

The Biden administration promised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a long-awaited invitation to visit the White House in exchange for his agreement to shelve a bill which would limit foreign funding to NGOs operating in Israel, Hebrew language media reported on Sunday.

The bill, which would see nonprofit organizations in Israel subject to new financial requirements such as paying a 65 percent tax on funding coming from foreign donors, sparked major backlash from the U.S. and Europe.

Netanyahu’s Likud party has promoted the bill as critical for minimizing foreign interference in Israel’s domestic affairs, and the legislation’s backers have noted numerous incidents in which NGOs purporting to promote human rights have served as smokescreens for terror.

But according to a report from Army Radio, Netanyahu is willing to freeze the bill in order to secure a face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington D.C.

As an additional incentive for dropping the bill, the U.S. has also reportedly floated its assistance in streamlining a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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Biden has long taken an icy approach towards diplomatic relations with Netanyahu, failing to phone the premier for more than a month after taking office in January 2021.

The president has also resisted inviting Netanyahu to visit the White House, much to the premier’s chagrin.

Biden told American media that the snub was a consequence for Netanyahu’s support for potential reforms to Israel’s judicial system, stating he was “very concerned” over the legislation.

It’s unclear when Netanyahu will visit the White House, or if a formal invitation has been issued.

Speaking to Ynet on Sunday morning, Likud MK Nissim Vaturi said the NGO law was critical to ensure that foreign governments and interests cannot affect Israeli domestic policy.

“We don’t need people from the outside to preach to us,” Vaturi said. “[Foreign funding to Israeli NGOs] is a loophole for anti-Israeli causes, and I am not in favor of us folding [and shelving the bill] because of international pressure.”