Controversial National Service Bill Passes First Knesset Hurdle
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved on Sunday a bill co-sponsored by Likud MK Amir Ohana and Coalition Chairman David Bitan to withhold National Service appointments, known in Hebrew as Sherut Leumi, to organizations receiving more than 50% of their funding from foreign governments.
Sherut Leumi service is a popular choice for Orthodox women who want to perform national service but do not want to serve in the military.
“The National Service option is supposed to work in favor of the State of Israel, not against it,” said MK Ohana in a Facebook statement.
The bill defines the concerned organizations through a mechanism similar to that specified in the “Law of Associations,” and includes 27 organizations, 25 of which are human rights organizations, with the obligation to report publicly on their funding sources.
The “Associations Law,” approved last July at the behest of Justice Minister Shaked, requires all organizations receiving more than 50% of their budget from foreign states to file a funding statement with the State Registrar and to indicate it in official publications.
According to Ohana, organizations who receive the majority of their fundings from foreign governments are bound to construct a responsibility and allegiance to those states, and consequently the State of Israel should not provide them with the manpower to further those interests, and influence the Israeli public sphere.
One of the organizations concerned by this law is B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, an NGO heavily funded by foreign money. AT the time, Sherut Leumi director Sar Shalom Jerbi told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that he objected to providing national service volunteers to the organization.
“Regretfully, the Attorney General obligated me to return them to the program,” he added.
Meretz MK Michal Rozin harshly criticized the national service bill when it was proposed, arguing that the law was an attempt by the government to smother the associations and organizations affiliated with the political left.
“[It seems like] states are friendly solely when they fund government offices, but enemies when they donate to leftist organizations,” she claimed in a Facebook post.
“Let’s call a spade a spade: The two proposed laws [the National Service Bill and the Associations Law] share one goal: To thwart the activities of the associations whose position and activities are contrary to government policy. Not against the state, as they are trying to argue, but government policy,” she concluded.
Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On concurred, saying the bill was just a new use of the legislative system “to paint political opposers as traitors [to the State].”
The Ministerial Committee Approval follows on the heels of a B’Tselem report, released on December 5, entitled Expel and Exploit: The Israeli Practice of Taking over Rural Palestinian Land.
When asked by TPS for a statement on the bill, B’Tselem stated the organization was not interested in reacting to the issue, and that the topic was not one of concern for them.