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Bibi Freezes Bills on Funding Rights Groups

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to freeze the parliamentary process that would ratify bills aimed at limiting foreign funding of Israeli human rights organizations, sources said on Saturday, a week after a Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bills.

According to the sources, Netanyahu decided to indefinitely postpone appeals submitted against the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s vote, meaning that Knesset members wont be able to ratify the bills.

These bills, sponsored by two members of Netanyahu’s Likud party – MKs Tzipi Hotovely and Ofir Akunis, would cap foreign governments’ contributions to “political” non-governmental organizations at NIS 20,000.

Speaking with Haaretz, officials said the “bills won’t come up [for vote] soon,” adding that there are “dozens of appeals awaiting cabinet debate, designed to stall the promotion of bills, and this is one of them.”

“As of right now there’s no intention to hold a discussion about [the bill] in cabinet meetings. Netanyahu will have to decide when and how – if at all – he would like to revive these bills. This also depends on the pressure he may face,” the source added.

This is not the first time the bills had been stalled, after Netanyahu asked Ofir Akunis, who was behind one of the proposals, to withdraw the version he submitted to the cabinet, and reformulate its phrasing. Speaking on Saturday, Akunis estimated that revamping the bill would “take some time” before it could be submitted for the cabinet’s approval.

Officials close to the bills’ proponents told Haaretz Saturday that they feel “Netanyahu is working to jam these bills. Maybe he was scared from the criticism he had heard from foreign representatives and from the Attorney General.”

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

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

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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