Netanyahu freezes bills limiting foreign funding for NGOs


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frozen the progress of two bills that would impose restrictions on foreign funding to nongovernmental organizations in Israel.

Israeli media reported that Netanyahu would indefinitely postpone appeals hearings on the bills a week after they were approved in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation by a vote of 11 to 5. Committee members challenged the bills, which were set to be debated by the Cabinet before they reached the Knesset floor.

Netanyahu reportedly had asked the sponsoring lawmakers to withdraw and rewrite the bills to make them more palatable to the international community. Netanyahu’s office has been under fire by the United States, the European Union and other foreign countries over the bills, which have been called undemocratic. 

One bill, introduced by Likud lawmaker Ofir Akunis, would ban political organizations in Israel from receiving donations of more than approximately $5,500 from foreign governments and international organizations. The second, initiated by Fania Kirshenbaum of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, would tax the organizations at a rate of 45 percent on all revenue provided by a foreign government. Netanyahu reportedly supports both bills.

Meanwhile, the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported Sunday that the Swedish government funded the publication of an anti-Israel booklet titled "Colonialism and Apartheid – the Israeli occupation in Palestine."

The government reportedly gave $104,600 to a Swedish-Palestinian solidarity group to publish the 40-page book, which also calls for a boycott of Israel.

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