After holding an urgent press conference in which they accused the Zionist Camp and Meretz of receiving foreign funds for their election campaign raised by leftwing NGO V15, the Likud had to backtrack on its petition against the NGO on Thursday over lack of sufficient evidence to back their claim.
Two weeks ago, Likud MKs Ofir Akunis, Miri Regev, Tzipi Hotovely, Yariv Levin and others held a press conference claiming they had incriminating evidence against Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog, which prove that the NGO V15 was working illegally on his behalf to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But on Thursday, the party informed the Jerusalem District Court it decided to withdraw its petition against V15, saying it was hard to find a "smoking gun" against the organization. Judge Zvi Segal accepted the request to withdraw the petition.
Segal recommended this course of action on Wednesday after a long hearing on the Likud's petition to halt the activity of V15. The judge gave the Likud's representative, Attorney David Shimron, 24 hours to withdraw the petition.
In his request to withdraw the petition, Shimron noted that in light of the fact the issue is being investigated by the Criminal Department in the State Attorney's Office following a complaint filed to the police, and in light of Judge Segal's recommendation that the evidence on display necessitate closer examination, as well as in light of the court's comment that there was an evidentiary difficulty in proving the extent of the affiliation between V15 and the aforementioned parties - the Likud decided to withdraw the petition while insisting on the State Attorney's investigation and that of the State Comptroller.
The Likud party stressed that "the meaning of Judge Zvi Segal's decision is that a thorough investigation is required: Who is funding the V15 organization, and from whom foreign money is coming to unseat the Likud government headed by Netanyahu. Judge Segal's decision is a warning to V15 and to the Zionist Camp. The police and State Attorney have the measures to expose the truth hiding behind V15 and we call on law enforcement authorities to immediately open an investigation."
Earlier this month, the Likud party accused the Zionist Camp and Meretz of breaking election fundraising and propaganda laws by receiving donations raised by NGOs funded by foreign donors.
In a petition filed by the Likud party to the Central Election Committee, the party alleges that the organizations Molad (the center for the renewal of Israeli democracy), OneVoice (organization supporting the two-state solution), Project 61 (which deals with election polls) and V15 (Victory 2015, an organization seeking to replace the government) are funding the left-wing's elections campaign.
The petition claims that these organizations are conducting indirect election propaganda, linked to the Labor party and Meretz, not in accordance with elections campaign laws.
The Likud demanded an injunction to be filed against V15 and Project 61, forbidding them from continuing their campaigns.
"The Likud movement is calling on investigative authorities to continue their work to follow the sources of funding for the left's campaign, which is supported by radical leftwing organizations who seek to change the government with money. We won't let the 'NGOs affair 2' happen," the party said Thursday.
The Zionist Camp said in response: "We feel bad for Bibi, who will have to now think of a new spin so, heavens forbid, no one talks about his failures in security, the cost of living and housing. We won't be surprised if tomorrow morning we wake up to a press conference held by the prime minister's subjects in which the snow will be presented as a conspiracy by the Zionist Camp to overthrow the Netanyahu regime. This is what Bibi is like, the lower he is polling, the more he is lying."
The V15 organization said in response: "What started with a bizarre and farfetched press conference ended today with an embarrassing admission of surrender by the Likud to the District Court in Jerusalem. The Likud's decision to backtrack on their request for an injunction and from the court petition is another link in a chain of losses Likud has suffered to V15 in this election campaign. We regret that what was left of the glorious Likud movement is a weak performance of the (Netanyahu) family's lawyer and a noisy group of MKs and ministers who ingratiate themselves to their detached leader. Judge Zvi Segal also realized that behind V15 are Israelis determined to bring back hope and replace the government."