Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday endorsed for the first time Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s NGO transparency bill. Speaking at a reception for the foreign press, Netanyahu accused the bill’s opponents of hypocrisy. He cited a law that was passed in the US Congress in 2015, which directs foreign-funded NGOs appearing before Congress to disclose their source of funding in writing prior to the hearing. Netanyahu noted that while the Israeli bill only asks for disclosure if the foreign funding exceeds 50% of the NGO’s budget, the US version starts at one dollar.
“I fail to understand how more transparency is undemocratic,” Netanyahu said. “It’s the most elementary requirement in any democracy… Transparency is at the heart of democracy. When you hear of the illegitimate use of NGOs in Israel, transparency is the minimum we ask for. It’s highly justified, it’s common sense.”
On Sunday, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro met with Justice Minister Shaked to express the Administration’s concern about the transparency bill, suggesting it would have a chilling effect on NGOs. Shaked has received similar messages from the Ambassadors of Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, and the EU.