Netanyahu accuses France of funding anti-Israel groups
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Netanyahu accuses France of funding anti-Israel groups

As Paris weighs ban on foreign financing of mosques, PM orders probe into French-sponsored organizations that 'incite' against Jewish state, encourage boycotts

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting at Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 31, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting at Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 31, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he ordered an investigation into French-funded organizations that he labeled anti-Israel, as Paris moved to limit the foreign financing of mosques.

After a spate of deadly jihadist attacks, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Saturday announced Paris was considering banning foreign funding of mosques.

“This sounds familiar to us. We are also disturbed by such donations to organizations that deny the State of Israel’s right to exist,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.

A preliminary inquiry has revealed that several European countries, including France, directly support organizations that engage in anti-Israel incitement, call to boycott the country and do not recognize Israel’s right to exist, Netanyahu said.

“We will discuss this with them because terror is terror everywhere and incitement is incitement which, apparently, encompasses the world, [and] governments must be as united as possible in dealing with them,” the prime minister said.

Netanyahu said the findings of the completed investigation would be submitted to the French government.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls during a debate aiming at extending the country's state of emergency for a fourth time at the French National Assembly in Paris on July 19, 2016. (AFP Photo/Francois Guillot)
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls during a debate aiming at extending the country’s state of emergency for a fourth time at the French National Assembly in Paris on July 19, 2016. (AFP Photo/Francois Guillot)

On Saturday, Valls said he would weigh a temporary ban on foreign financing of local mosques, urging a “new model” for relations with Islam after the deadly Islamist attacks.

In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, Valls said he was “open to the idea that — for a period yet to be determined — there should be no financing from abroad for the construction of mosques.”

The Socialist prime minister also called for imams to be “trained in France, not elsewhere.”

France has just over 2,000 mosques, for Europe’s largest Muslim populations which numbers around five million.

Some large mosques have been financed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf or northern African countries, according to local media reports.

Last week, two Islamic State jihadists stormed into a Normandy church mid mass and slaughtered an elderly priest and took several others hostage.

Both of the attackers, Abdel Malik Petitjean and Adel Kermiche, had been on the radar of intelligence services and had tried to travel to Syria.

The church attack came as the government was already facing a firestorm of criticism over alleged security failings after the Bastille Day truck massacre in Nice that left 84 people dead two weeks ago.

Earlier this month, Israel approved the controversial NGO Transparency Law, which dramatically ups transparency requirements for those Israeli NGOs, numbering fewer than two dozen, that get most of their funding from foreign governments. Critics said the law unfairly targets left-wing NGOs critical of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, and seeks to brand them as agents of foreign governments. The law’s defenders argued that the mere fact that so many left-wing advocacy groups are funded primarily by foreign governments is an important public-awareness issue and stressed the law applied no constraints on receiving funding.

The European Union, United Nations and United States expressed concern about the law.

AFP contributed to this report.

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