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Israel Moves To Limit Funds for Rights Groups

A Knesset committee on Sunday approved two bills that would limit foreign funding for Israeli human rights organizations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already announced support for one of the bills, sponsored by two members of his Likud party – MKs Tzipi Hotovely and Ofir Akunis – which would cap foreign governments’ contributions to “political” non-governmental organizations at NIS 20,000.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, meanwhile, is throwing its weight behind the second initiative brought forh by party MK Fania Kirshenbaum, which would slap a 45 percent tax on foreign governments’ donations to NGOs ineligible for state funding.

Netanyahu said Sunday that he wants to amend a number of clauses in each bill, which are likely to include raising the proposed cap for financial contributions and distinguishing between organization that specify in human rights from those viewed as having a purely political agenda.

Members of the coalition will be asked to vote on both bills when they are brought to the Knesset for a preliminary reading in the coming days.

Also on Sunday, Netanyahu decided to postpone the vote on a controversial bill that gives the Knesset Constitution Committee the right to vet Supreme Court candidates.

The European Union and the United States, as well as other countries, have been applying pressure on Netanyahu’s office, urging the new legislation be scrapped.

The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Andrew Standley, contacted the prime minister’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, on Thursday and warned him that passage of the legislation could harm Israel’s standing in the West as a democratic country.

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