JERUSALEM – NGO Monitor today released the following statement regarding MK Ophir Akunis’s (Likud) proposal introduced in the Ministers Committee for Legislation that would prevent foreign government funding to NGOs in Israel.

This is another in a series of legislative proposals and debates focusing on the major impact of large-scale foreign government funding of political advocacy NGOs.

NGO Monitor notes that in February 2011, the Knesset adopted the NGO Funding Transparency Law (MK Ze’ev Elkin – Likud). The objective of this law is to provide Israeli democracy and civil society with the information necessary to assess the extent and impact of secret foreign government funding for a narrow group of political advocacy NGOs. Both the secrecy of these funding procedures and the external manipulation of civil society by external forces were understood to violate the accepted norms and practices among sovereign democratic nations. The short period of time that has elapsed since the adoption of this legislation has not provided enough experience to assess the impact and the degree to which the objectives, related to the Israeli public’s right to know, have been achieved.

At the same time, the number of initiatives designed to go beyond transparency-related issues reflects the deep concern among Israel’s democratically elected representatives regarding foreign government funding of political advocacy NGOs that are centrally involved in delegitimization campaigns. This concern is also reflected consistently in public opinion polls.

In the absence of basic policy changes among the European governments that are responsible for these processes, including the ongoing anti-democratic secrecy in funding NGOs that have central impacts on Israeli citizens, and their lack of accountability, these concerns are likely to increase.  The proposed Israeli legislation is another expression of this unease, and the efforts to formulate and implement appropriate remedies.