Monday's bill was approved just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would allow Likud members to vote freely on the establishment of official committees to investigate foreign funding of left-wing organizations.
Many Likud members oppose the proffered investigations, causing alarm in the party that Netanyahu's move would prevent them from being formed. Yisrael Beiteinu, which proposed the probe, decided to postpone its demands indefinitely following the prime minister's announcement.
Forty MKs supported Monday's bill, while 34 were opposed. MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) voted against the bill, calling it "cowardly".
"This legislation is illogical. We need to stop being a cowardly people, a persecuted people. We are strong. Week after week, time after time, bills like this come up," he said. MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) said the Knesset was following "Lieberman's whims".
MK Michael Eitan responded to the criticism by calling the new legislation "transparent". He claimed many organizations have already agreed to such a move.
"The question is whether they are ashamed of what they are doing. I believe transparency is a proper obligation. In the US transparency requirements are far more severe," Eitan said.
MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) also defended the bill, saying it treats both left and right-wing organizations equally and that all would benefit from it.
'Knesset has come to its senses'
B'Tselem responded to the news of an apparent rescinding of the inquiry committees by telling Ynet that it appeared the Knesset had "come to its senses".
"It is necessary for Israeli society to hold a public debate on the occupation and violation of human rights instead of evading it with a parliamentary persecution committee," said a member of the group, one of which Yisrael Beiteinu had hoped to investigate for accepting funds from illegal sources.
Machsom Watch also commended the decision, saying that "human rights violations are at the heart of the issue".
Yesh Din expressed hope that "instead of parliamentary inquiry committees for human rights groups, the government and Knesset will establish a serious committee to investigate law enforcement authorities' failure to investigate Israeli citizens who hurt Palestinians in the West Bank".
A spokesman for Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement was less enthused. "On the ground we are not seeing any relenting in the pressure to limit our legitimate protest. The fact that the Knesset has withdrawn pressure does not mean we can rejoice," he said.
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer thanked a number of MKs who had "caused the entire Knesset to stand behind leftist and human rights organizations".
"However, I am very concerned over Netanyahu's continuing competition with Lieberman, over who will succeed in limiting freedom of speech more in Israel and make it difficult for organizations to raise funds," he said.
Yair Altman contributed to this report
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook