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Political parties and party lists (blocs) in general elections are prohibited from accepting campaign donations from foreign individuals and from corporations or registered partnerships in Israel or abroad. While individuals running in primaries are prohibited from receiving any corporate donations, Israeli or foreign, it appears that they may receive individual donations from either Israeli or foreign individual donors up to a ceiling and under conditions determined by law.

There are no prohibitions on hiring foreign consultants in political campaigns. Fees paid to such consultants must be included in financial reports submitted by political parties to the State Comptroller. Fees paid to consultants by Israeli nonprofit organizations are subject to extensive disclosure requirements for any contributions received from foreign political entities. 

There are no laws that prohibit foreign persons or entities communicating about elections during campaigns, through any form of mass media, including the internet and social media. Television and radio broadcasting companies, however, are required to be registered in Israel or have a certain percentage of all means of control vested in Israeli residents or citizens or in a corporation registered in Israel.

I. Prohibitions on Receipt of Foreign Contributions

Political parties and lists (blocs) of candidates[1] are prohibited from directly or indirectly receiving any contribution from foreign individuals and from corporations or registered partnerships in Israel or abroad.[2] Individual candidates are similarly prohibited from getting funding for primaries from any corporations and registered partnerships.[3]

While donations by individual foreign donors to individual candidates in primaries do not appear to be prohibited, similar to donations by Israeli donors, they are subject to a general cap of NIS 11,520 (about US$3,189) for a single donation or the aggregate amount of donations by a single donor during the determining period. This period generally extends from the fifteenth day following the receipt of the donation to a candidate running for the first time, or following the previous primary elections for a candidate who ran before, up to fourteen days after the primary elections.[4]

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II. Disclosure Requirements for Fees Paid to Foreign Consultants

The employment of foreign consultants in political campaigns is not prohibited but is subject to reporting requirements.

A. Fees Paid Directly by Political Parties and Candidates

Fees paid by political parties or primary candidates to foreign consultants have to be reported as expenses in financial reports that must be filed with the State Comptroller’s office.[5]

B. Fees Paid by Amutot

Fees that are paid by nonprofit organizations (amutot) to foreign consultants for consulting with parties or candidates are subject to disclosure requirements under the Duty of Disclosure [for a Body] Supported by a Foreign Political Entity, 5771-2011 (Disclosure Law).[6]

The Disclosure Law applies to “foreign political entities” (FPEs) consisting of foreign countries and organizations, as well as the Palestinian Authority. A corporation established by an FPE’s law or one in which an FPE holds more than half of a certain type of control in the corporation or that has been appointed on the FPE’s behalf, as well as a foreign corporation whose financial report for the last fiscal year indicates it was funded mainly by FPEs, is also subject to disclosure requirements.[7]

Disclosure duties include quarterly financial reporting requirements as to the identity of donors, the amount and objectives of the donations, and the conditions for their receipt.[8] The information submitted to the Registrar of Amutot will be published on the website of the Ministry of Justice and by the funded body if it has a website, and in any other way selected by the Registrar. Additionally, an amuta that received a donation from a foreign entity for the purpose of funding a special advertising campaign must publish, as part of its campaign, the fact that it has received the donation.[9]

An amuta that has received most of its funding in the last fiscal year from an FPE must state this fact in a digital form determined by the Minister of Justice.[10] Such an amuta must also conspicuously state in any of the following media that most of its funding derives from an FPE

  1. any publically accessible publication designed to promote the amuta’s objectives including billboards, television, newspapers, the homepage of its Internet site, or its digital publications made widely and continuously available on the Internet;
  2. any written request by the FPE to a public service provider or an elected official, by letter or by digital mail, on issues related to the performance of their official duties;
  3. reports prepared and distributed by the amuta for public review.[11]

The Law further requires that any report prepared and distributed by the amuta for public review must, in addition to publicizing the fact that its funding is derived mostly from FPEs, provide the names of the FPEs from which it has received the donations that are listed on the Registrar of Amutot’s website.[12]

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III. Dissemination of Election Information through Mass Media

There are no laws that prohibit foreign persons or entities from communicating about elections during campaigns, through any form of mass media, including the internet and social media. 

It should be noted, however, that in accordance with the Law for the Second Authority for TV and Radio (Authority), 5790-1990, television and radio broadcasters are required to obtain a license that is granted in a public tender.[13] Applicants must, among other requirements, be a corporation registered in Israel. The Law requires that the ability to direct the corporation’s operation and at least twenty-six percent of all the means of its control should be with Israeli citizens and residents of Israel or by registered corporations in Israel.[14] 

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IV. Services by Foreign Campaign Consultants

There appears to be no prohibition on participation of foreign political campaign consultants. Consultants from the United States started to work on Israeli campaigns in the 1990s. [15] Many of Israel’s major parties have reportedly used US political consultants.

According to an April 10, 2019, Haaretz article, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enlisted John McLaughlin, who had worked as an adviser and pollster for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, to assist in his May 2019 reelection campaign. Before working with Trump, the article states, McLaughlin helped Netanyahu with his successful 2015 campaign. The report also mentions Arthur Finkelstein’s help in Netanyahu’s success in 1996, when he assumed power for the first time. [16]

According to a February 12, 2015, article by USA Today,

Though U.S. consultants have advised Israeli politicians for nearly 20 years, ”the level of partisan Israeli accusations of foreign meddling has reached an unprecedented level . . .

Israeli law prohibits foreigners from donating money directly to the country’s political parties once candidates are chosen in primaries, but they can donate to partisan, non-profit organizations that promote the political viewpoints associated with Israeli parties or candidates. The parties say they have no links to these groups . . . .

The Republican consultants and money supporting right-wing causes provide a boost to Netanyahu's Likud Party, while the Democrats back the more liberal Labor Party and the Zionist Camp, a center-left coalition that includes Labor . . . [17]

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V. A Bill Addressing Foreign Involvement in Israeli Election Campaigns

A private members’ bill targeting propaganda directed by foreign countries was submitted on December 3, 2018, by three Knesset members. According to explanatory notes to this bill, its intention was “to prevent advertising propaganda from abroad, or by corporations that are prohibited from donating to Knesset candidates’ lists.”[18]

The bill proposes to authorize the head of the Central Election Committee, who is a serving justice on the Supreme Court, to issue an injunction preventing the receipt of prohibited donations, monetary or otherwise, in accordance with the Parties Financing Law, 5733-1973.[19] The bill has not been adopted into law at this time.

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Ruth Levush
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
August 2019


[1] See Parties, Lists, Parliamentary Groups, Etc., Knesset Website, https://www.knesset.gov.il/faction/eng/ FactionEtc_eng.asp (last visited June 10, 2019), archived at https://perma.cc/TRX8-G8FR.

[2] Political Parties (Financing) Law, 5733-1973, § 8(a) & (d1), Sefer Ha-Hukim (SH, Book of Laws, official gazette) 5733 No. 680 p.52, as amended; Knesset Elections (Consolidated Version) Law, 5729-1969, §§ 2 & 26, SH 5729 No. 556 p. 103.

[3] Parties Law, 5752-1992, § 28 D (a), SH 5752 No. 1395 p. 190 (as amended).

[4] Id. § 28 F (a) (1 &3).

[5] Political Parties (Financing) Law, 5733-1973, § 9; Parties Law 5752-1992, § 28 V; Directives regarding reporting requirements available at the State Comptroller and Ombudsman of Israel, https://www.mevaker.gov.il/ he/mimun/Pages/MimunLaws.aspx  (last visited June 10, 2019) [in Hebrew], archived at https://perma.cc/E4MK-LMHY.

[6] Duty of Disclosure [for a Body] Supported by a Foreign Political Entity, 5771-2011, SH 5771 No. 2279, p. 362 (as amended); see also Ruth Levush, Israel: Disclosure Requirements for Organizations Funded by Foreign Political Entities, Global Legal Monitor (July 19, 2016), http://loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/israel-disclosure-requirements-for-organizations-funded-by-foreign-political-entities/, archived at https://perma.cc/AYA9-C2XW.

[7] Disclosure Law § 1; (Amutot [Non-Profit Organizations] Law, 5740-1980, § 36A (a), SH 5740 No. 983 p. 210 (as amended)).

[8] Disclosure Law, § 2.

[9] Id. §§ 4-5.

[10] Id. § 5A(a).

[11] Id. § 5A(b).

[12] Id. § 5A(c).

[13] Second Authority for TV and Radio, 5790-1990, § 38, SH 5770 No. 1304 p. 59 (as amended).

[14] Id. § 41(a)(1).

[15] Alexander Griffing, Bibi 2019 and Trump 2020//The Trump Pollster Who Helped Netanyahu Win Reelection, Haaretz (Apr. 10, 2019), https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-the-trump-pollster-who-helped-netanyahu-get-reelected-1.7106293, archived at https://perma.cc/S37H-GSKK.

[16] Michele Chabin, American Advisers, Money Shape Israel's Election, Usa Today (Feb. 12, 2015), https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/02/12/israel-election-us-consultants-donors/23237871/ , archived at https://perma.cc/BNS8-JHPF.

[17] Id.

[18] Elections (Modes of Propaganda) (Amendment- Injunctions against Propaganda from a Foreign Country) Draft Bill for Preliminary Reading, 5779-2018 (filed Dec. 3, 2019), https://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/ Legislation/Laws/Pages/LawBill.aspx?t=lawsuggestionssearch&lawitemid=2076227 (click on link at left), archived at https://perma.cc/S5YM-9HLN.

[19] Id.; Political Parties (Financing) Law, 5733-1973, SH 5733 No. 680 p. 52. For information on the financing of national elections in Israel, see Ruth Levush, Campaign Finance: Israel, Law Library of Congress (Apr. 2009), https://www.loc.gov/law/help/campaign-finance/israel.php, archived at https://perma.cc/9L63-BLF2.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020