Jerusalem: Israeli ministers approved a bill today that would impose harsh penalties on Israeli rights groups that support boycotts of the country or war crimes charges against its soldiers.
The far-right Jewish Home party, one of the sponsors, said the bill was passed by the ministerial committee on legislation for submission to the full cabinet, and then to parliament.
"This law would help defend Israeli soldiers from foreign-funded malicious suits," a party statement said.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has said such a law would be unconstitutional and that he would not defend it if it were challenged in the courts.
Public radio said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the committee`s chairwoman, would appeal to the cabinet to strike down the draft before it goes any further and quoted her as calling it "populist, dressed up as patriotic."
Jewish Home`s Ayelet Shaked, co-sponsor of the bill with Robert Ilatov of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, said it aimed to impose a 45 per cent tax on groups that receive funding from abroad and which support anti-Israel boycott or divestment campaigns, lawsuits against it soldiers for alleged war crimes, armed struggle against Israel or fail to recognise the state as "Jewish and democratic."
NGO Monitor, a right-wing watchdog whose motto is "Making NGOs Accountable" said that although "extensive foreign-government funding for non-governmental organisations that lead international campaigns demonising Israel is a serious source of concern," proposals such as Shaked`s "are ill advised, not enforceable and damage Israel`s vital national interests."