Israel rejects US meddling in internal legislation

While emphasizing the close relationship with Washington, Israeli officials explained that Israel has its limits and internal matters regarding foreign funding of NGOs are of no concern to outsiders.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. (Matty Stern/US Embassy)

An attempt by the Obama administration to influence Israeli policy making concerning NGO’s operating in Israel, is being met with fierce opposition by the Israeli government.

Israeli lawmakers are working to pass a law that would require all lobbyists for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and who receive the majority of their funding from foreign governments, to wear special identity tags while in the Knesset.

The Obama administration has also expressed concerns that the move was “undemocratic,” and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro met with Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked on Monday to discuss the issue.

There are over 300 NGOs operating in Israel which are funded by foreign governments, and primarily by the Europeans, which operate to influence Israel in various aspects, and in many cases operate against the Jewish State. Lawmakers are now working to limit their subversive activities.

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Expectedly, many foreign governments have protested this move, denoting to the fact that they don’t want their activities within Israel limited and that this law would be effective.

Israel maintains that the US has a similar law, while Shapiro reportedly told her they were different.

Shaked stated after the meeting that there was no need to the US to meddle with internal Israeli policies.

She added that she found it hard to understand how foreign governments allow themselves to intervene in internal Israeli lawmaking.

While expressing pleasure over her meeting with Shapiro, Shaked said “there was no reason to be concerned. Israel is a strong and vibrant democracy, and as such does not require the intervention of other countries in internal Israeli legislation. The US should not be worried,” she stated, adding that Israel’s “door was always open to dialogue with friends.”

“The United States and Israeli governments maintain a robust dialogue and open consultation on a wide range of issues of mutual concern and interest. In this context, Ambassador Shapiro met with Minister Shaked yesterday, and deeply appreciated their respectful and productive discussion,” the US embassy said in a statement after the meeting.

While noting the US “concerns” on the new law, the statement also noted that “Israel is a strong and vibrant democracy, which gives substantial voice to all points of view and promotes a thriving, transparent civil society.”

“He [Shapiro] reiterated the United States’ view that such a free and functioning civil society is an essential element of a healthy democracy, and that governments must protect free expression and peaceful dissent and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard,” meaning that the US believes that the new bill would hinder this democratic atmosphere.

“Ambassador Shapiro and Minister Shaked agreed to continue their dialogue on this and other issues of mutual concern,” the statement said.

In the meantime, Israeli lawmakers are proceeding with the legislation.