View of the plenum hall in the Israeli parliament on February 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of the plenum hall in the Israeli parliament on February 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A controversial bill that would cap donations to non-governmental organizations advancing political initiatives during elections passed its first reading in the Knesset on Monday night, with a vote of 37 in favor and 26 opposed.

The so-called V15 bill, named for an effort aided by a US-funded group that ostensibly tried to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the 2015 national elections, aims to prevent those with means from bypassing election-funding laws and interfering or trying to influence the outcome of an election through a political organization.

The bill seeks to impose an NIS 11,000 ($2,900) limit per single donor and requires groups to spell out their activities and financing to the state ombudsman. Contributions larger than NIS 100,000 will have to be reported to the state comptroller and those larger than NIS 400,000 will be subject to fines and possible criminal charges if fraud is suspected.

According to Haaretz, the bill calls for restrictions on groups for four specific activities during elections when the cost exceeds NIS 100,000: creating a voter database and documenting political leanings; transporting voters to polling stations based on their political opinions; directly appealing to voters with certain opinions in the three months prior to the election to influence their votes; and launching a publicity campaign during an election aimed at influencing people to vote for…