Knesset Passes Law Restricting NGO Political Campaign Funding

The Knesset voted into law on Monday, March 20, a bill restricting non-profit organizations which seek to promote political agendas during election campaigns. Forty-one lawmakers voted in favor, while 27 opposed the bill. Far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initiated the legislation, after the extensive campaign waged by the American-based V15 organization to oust him from the premiership in the 2015 elections for the 20th Knesset.

"2015 V15 Victory"

“2015 V15 Victory”

The declared intention of the new law is to make it harder for wealthy individuals to invest large sums of money to influence the outcome of Knesset elections and make an end-run around the party financing law. However, social action groups and other civil society organizations fear that the law will primarily make it difficult for them to raise funds and promote various public campaigns.

A number of controversial clauses were dropped from the bill ahead of the final vote, including one that would have prevented restrictions on donors to media outlets that come out in support for a specific candidate, called by some the “Israel Hayom” clause, after the freely distributed pro-Netanyahu daily.

Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) remarked that the new law would be imposed mainly on left-wing organizations. “I agree with the principle of limiting external funding, certainly from abroad, in election campaigns,” he said. However “I am opposed [to the bill] because it is impossible to accept a double standard whereby what is permitted for one political side is forbidden for the other.”