[Opinion] Knesset NGO vote is the beginning of the debate, not the end
The millions of shekels transferred annually from European governments to about 30 very political Israeli NGOs is a serious issue.
The latest legislation is part of ongoing efforts to deal with a unique threat facing Israel – more than 15 years of demonization, BDS and lawfare. These political attacks have been enabled and bolstered by tens of millions of euros, pounds, Swiss francs, and krona from governments, provided to NGOs on a scale unseen anywhere else in the world.
This is slowly changing, in part due to the debate surrounding the legislation, and many European officials and MPs do not like what they beginning to see. In June alone, three European countries initiated more constructive approaches to addressing the issue of NGO funding uniquely targeting Israel.
These actions, resulting in large part from direct bilateral dialogue between Israeli MKs and their European counterparts, need to continue, particularly as some of Israel’s remaining supporters in Europe – including Germany – have yet to join the process. German MPs have been vocal in opposing the current legislation, repeating NGO talking points referring to the bill as antidemocratic, claiming it “would constitute a massive assault on freedom of association and freedom of opinion.” This hyperbole is counterproductive, and reinforces the impression among Israelis that Europeans are using a narrow group of selected NGOs to manipulate Israeli democracy.
NGO Monitor has been consistent and clear in analyzing and proposing alternatives to the legislative efforts, recommending direct P2P (parliament to parliament) discussions on funding practices. The establishment of a body comprising Knesset members and European parliamentarians to oversee these allocations would enable both parties to voice their concerns as well as suggest concrete steps.
To be sure, once the legislation has passed, it can still be reversed like all democratic processes. But that will only happen if an alternative is created and shown to be effective.
The problems related to the scale and nature of foreign funding for a few powerful Israeli NGOs are not going to go away. The Europeans who profess their support for Israel must take the problem seriously and engage with the elected representatives of the Israeli public.