NGO probe plan stirs up storm in Israel

Politicians say that Israeli human rights groups gave information to Goldstone (above) for his Gaza war report

Politicians say that Israeli human rights groups gave information to Goldstone (above) for his Gaza war report

The Knesset vote in favour of a parliamentary commission of enquiry into the foreign sources of finance for Israeli human-rights groups has caused a political storm, not only between the right and left but also within the ruling Likud party.

The motion was sponsored by members of Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. Its original author, Likud MK Danny Danon, who will chair the commission, had tried to propose it a few months ago but was dissuaded by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Last week, it transpired that Yisrael Beiteinu was preparing to propose a similar motion and Mr Netanyahu decided to allow MK Danon to go ahead.

The Likud faction imposed a whip on its members, forcing them to vote in favour, but a number of senior members decided to absent themselves.

Mr Danon explained: "The commission will examine the connections between foreign states and international foundations, with terror movements and other bodies working on purchasing state lands and opposing Israel in other ways. It will look into ways to prevent this illegal funding."

MK Faina Kirschenbaum of Yisrael Beiteinu, who co-sponsored the motion, said: "These organisations presented information to the Goldstone Commission and are behind the arrest warrants against Israeli officers around the world."

Among the Israeli organisations expected to come under the spotlight are Yesh Din, which demands justice for Palestinian civilians who claim they were attacked by IDF soldiers and settlers; Ir-Amim, a movement trying to block settlements in east Jerusalem; and Adallah, the centre for civil rights for Israeli Arab citizens.

The left-wing was quick to respond. Hadash MK Dov Chenin described the decision as "anti-democratic and McCarthyite. Until now we talked about a slippery slope towards endangering democracy; we are now in freefall."

On Monday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke out in justification of the commission and said that the left-wing organisations were "totally aiding terror". He excoriated those in the Likud who had opposed the motion, saying: "There are leaders on the right that have turned into the apologists for the left. They do everything to serve the left, and they are traitors."

The Prime Minister, who had tried previously to stay above the fray, was forced at this point to respond. Mr Netanyahu made a "stern" phone call to his foreign minister in which "he made clear that he totally rejects the criticism of senior Likud members".

Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor, one of the Likud ministers closest to Mr Netanyahu, said that "the idea that Knesset members will probe organisations with other views is very dangerous".

Last updated: 1:04pm, January 13 2011