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Knesset, ahead of vote, debating bill authorizing NGO inquiries

JTA

July 20, 2011 | 10:40 am

The Knesset building, Jerusalem, Israel

The Knesset building, Jerusalem, Israel

Israel’s Knesset is debating a controversial bill that would authorize parliamentary investigations of Israeli groups critical of the country’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Knesset members were addressing the plenum into Wednesday evening ahead of a vote scheduled on the same day. The bill, which is on its second and third readings, is expected to fail by a few votes, according to reports.

The measure targeting left-wing nongovernmental organizations is sponsored by Likud lawmaker Danny Danon and Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker Faina Kirschenbaum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes the bill and said he will vote against it, but is allowing his Likud Party’s lawmakers to vote according to their own conscience. Most Likud Cabinet members reportedly oppose the bill, though the rest of the party members are supporting it, according to Haaretz, The Prime Minister’s Office in recent days reportedly was lobbying Knesset members to vote against the bill.

Yisrael Beiteinu said it will call for a roll call vote, where lawmakers must make their votes public, rather than a secret ballot.

The bill passed its first reading by a vote of 41 to 16.

“Those who vote in favor of this law will become voters against Israel,” opposition leader Tzipi Livni said Wednesday during the debate. “The evil spirits that have filled the Knesset are anti-democratic and violate the interests of the State of Israel.”

Addressing the bill’s sponsors, she added that “This idea came about as a way to probe citizens who do not think like you.”

The fight over the parliamentary inquiries comes on the heels of the Knesset’s passage of a controversial anti-boycott law that sanctions those who boycott Israel or West Bank Jewish settlements. That law, which Netanyahu said he supports, has been decried as anti-democratic by opposition parties, left-wing NGOs and civil rights groups in Israel. American Jewish groups also have criticized the measure.

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