An Israeli rights group on Sunday accused Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of "incitement and hate" after he referred to a number of leftist NGOs as "terror organisations."
Lieberman spoke to reporters as arrived for a cabinet meeting ahead of a vote in parliament this week on his campaign for a probe into leftist rights groups he says undermine Israel's legitimacy and help foreign efforts to charge its soldiers with war crimes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will oppose the initiative.
"We're not talking here about leftist organisations and not about human rights groups, we're talking about terror organisations," Lieberman said.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
He mentioned by name groups that lobby for Palestinian legal rights and encourage soldiers to blow the whistle on comrades who they believe commited abuses.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel lashed back with a harshly worded statement.
"It's a shame that Lieberman is not familiar with the official documents, among them foreign ministry reports boasting of the important actions of human rights organisations in Israel," it said.
"The truly dangerous thing is politicians who lead by using incitement and hate in order to appeal to populism."
In opening remarks to the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu urged caution in the use of parliament to fight groups with which some Israelis might disagree.
"There are things that need correcting," he said. "But we must do so methodically and cautiously, and in any case we must protect our system of law and the rule of law, the courts and our enforcement agencies."