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March 7, 2016 12:20 pm

Knesset Bill Seeks to Restrict NGO Involvement in Israeli Elections

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MK Yoav Kisch, who introduced the new Knesset bill. Photo: Facebook.

MK Yoav Kisch, who introduced the new Knesset bill. Photo: Facebook. – Member of Knesset Yoav Kisch (Likud) on Sunday introduced a new bill aimed at reducing the involvement of NGOs in Israeli Knesset elections. The bill would essentially apply Israel’s election laws to advocacy groups such as Victory 2015 (“V15”), which campaigned against the Likud-led government in the March 2015 Israeli election, although it did not endorse a specific candidate or party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he would consider supporting the measure. It is believed that V15 received tens of millions of dollars to fund its campaign to unseat Netanyahu, but since it did not explicitly back a specific party or candidate, it did not have to comply with Israel’s strict laws on campaign finance and propaganda. V15 now operates as part of a larger movement called Darkenu (“Our Way”).

The new bill would drastically limit political advocacy by V15 and similar organizations, who would not be able to spend freely on issues germane to elections or political parties.

“Propaganda that is not affiliated with specific parties but nevertheless helps a party or a political bloc is exempt from the rules governing parties, even though this activity and the parties it supports share a similar goal: influencing the Knesset elections,” the bill states. “As a result, organizations can circumvent election laws to the point that foreign funding and corporate donations can have undue influence over campaigns.”

The bill calls for a “remedy to this distortion, by defining that any organization that engages in activity that would normally be associated with parties during a campaign be considered an ‘actively involved organization’ and would have to comply with fundraising laws and other rules that apply to parties.”

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