x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Netanyahu freezes bills limiting aid to Israeli NGOs

Israel's prime minister has put the brakes on bills to limit foreign funding of Israeli human rights groups amid growing pressure from the US and other critics.

JERUSALEM // Israel's prime minister has put the brakes on bills to limit foreign funding of Israeli human rights groups amid growing pressure from the US and other critics abroad.

Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the postponement of hearings into draft legislation that would cap foreign donations to NGOs seeking "to influence Israel's diplomatic and security agenda" or to carry out political activities, according to Haaretz newspaper yesterday.

The postponement, which would keep the bills out of parliament, comes after the ministerial committee on legislation approved the draft laws, effectively handing them a government endorsement, despite domestic and international criticism.

An Israeli official said: "The whole process is now frozen pending a discussion in the full cabinet and such a discussion has yet to be scheduled."

The first bill, sponsored by Ophir Akunis of Mr Netanyahu's Likud party, limits contributions to NGOs from foreign governments and international organisations such as the UN to 20,000 shekels (Dh19,835) a year.

The second proposal, by a lawmaker from the ultranationalist Israel Beiteinu party, would levy a 45 per cent tax on foreign donations.

Haaretz said that both the US and the EU were pressing Israel's government to scrap the bills.