The attempt to separate between political NGOs and parties is usually artificial. B'Tselem is mainly affiliated with Meretz, and Zehava Galon reached the position of Meretz chairwoman after serving as the executive director of B'Tselem. The Zo Artzeinu movement sent at least two of its leaders to political activity, in the Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties.
The New Israel Fund (NIF) is affiliated with Meretz and with the leftist part of the Labor Party. The NIF's former president, Naomi Chazan, was a Knesset member on behalf of Meretz, and the co-chair of the NIF's International Council, Talia Sasson, is a Meretz member.
There isn't an unequivocal answer for when such activity turns into party propaganda, which is banned by the Knesset Elections Law, or should be regulated as part of the election campaign.
The Likud has launched a campaign against V15, the NGO which is waging a campaign to replace the current government. The association denies that it is operating on behalf of any party. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's NGOs raised similar claims. But those days, it should be mentioned, the law was vague. Then-Attorney General Elyakim was the person who caused the confusion.
It began even before the Barak NGOs. Millionaire Joseph Gutnick, a Chabad member, funded the "Netanyahu is good for the Jews" campaign. Rubinstein argued at the time that there was an "interpretive difficulty" and that there was a need for a legislative clarification. That interpretive difficulty caused that same attorney general to close the Barak NGOs case without any indictments. More than a decade and a half have passed, and the vagueness remains unchanged.
V15's activity is completely different from the activity of other NGOs, which are regularly active regardless of the elections. V15 was founded for the elections. Its goal is to replace the government. It wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be replaced with a candidate who does not come from the right-wing camp. Such an association cannot hide behind the vagueness of claiming that "this is not party propaganda."
The problem is not that two of the Zionist Camp's candidates for the Knesset, Yoel Hasson and Danny Atar, are registered as board members of the OneVoice organization, which is taking part in the V15 campaign. That's an old membership which has nothing to do with the current campaign. One of Shas' Knesset members was also on the board in the past. Such a registration does not point to a real connection.
The problem can be found somewhere else. Even if there is no connection, they are playing innocent. Whoever wages a campaign against an incumbent prime minister is no different from whoever wages a campaign in favor of an incumbent prime minister. And because it's clear that a campaign for Netanyahu would be considered party propaganda – and there is no need for a legal debate to understand that – whoever wages a campaign against Netanyahu is also engaging in party propaganda.
This is not just about V15. It's about any body which wages a political campaign during the elections which aims to affect the election results. The party funding law states that "a body related to a faction" is "a group of people, whether organized or unorganized, that participates in the election campaign or in regular party activity, which the state comptroller sees as an arm of the faction considering all or some of the following characterizations: The goals of a group of people, its actions, the identity of its owners, managers and members."
According to a reasonable interpretation, V15 is clearly part of the election campaign, as it is defined by the law. I requested a response from the state prosecutor, the authorized interpreter under the law, and was told that the issue is being looked into.
There are other similar bodies. It's even possible that there is a famous newspaper which comes close to that definition, and is actually affiliated with Netanyahu.
In the 1990s, the attorney general was hesitant and unclear, allowing Gutnick to donate to Netanyahu and others to donate to Barak. The comptroller will have to find good reasons to explain why V15 is not included in the election campaign. Until a contradicting and reasoned decision arrives from the comptroller's office, decency leads to one conclusion: The Likud is right.