Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Prime Minister Netanyahu
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky

US-funded resources used in 2015 campaign to unseat Netanyahu

Senate subcommittee found that political infrastructure created for OneVoice pro-peace campaign, like a database of voters and activists, was later used to recruit and support V15 campaign seeking to replace Netanyahu in 2015 elections.

US taxpayer money was used to aid a campaign by Israeli political group V15 to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the 2015 elections, according to a report by the US Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released Monday.



According to the report, the State Department approved in 2014 a grant request by OneVoice Israel, which is controlled by the American NGO the PeaceWorks Network Foundation, awarding it $349,276.


OneVoice stated in its proposal that it seeks to "execute a grassroots campaign in conjunction with Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to sustain negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel," noting it would use the money "to launch an expansive media strategy, conduct grassroots mobilization, and activate its network of 'elite influencers and trusted public figures' to disseminate the message."

Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Kerry (Photo: EPA)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Kerry (Photo: EPA)


Shortly after OneVoice’s grassroots campaign was completed, Netanyahu announced early elections set to take place in March of 2015.


The Senate subcommittee report found "no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections," however, its investigation did find that OneVoice used infrastructure and resources created for their grassroots campaign in the V15 campaign.


The grant money was used to create a contact database of Israeli voters and activists, to mount a social media campaign, and to hire the services of American political consulting company 270 Strategies.


The database included voters' names, phone numbers, email address and a list of OneVoice activists, many of whom were recruited or trained under the grant.


These resources were used by "Victory 15" or "v15," a political movement affiliated with OneVoice, to support and recruit for their campaign to unseat Netanyahu.


The report determined that "OneVoice’s use of government-funded resources for political purposes was not prohibited by the grant agreement because the State Department placed no limitations on the post-grant use of those resources."


However, it noted that "Despite OneVoice’s previous political activism in the 2013 Israeli election, the Department failed to take any steps to guard against the risk that OneVoice could engage in political activities using State-funded grassroots campaign infrastructure after the grant period."


V15 founders Itamar Weizman and Nimrod Dweck (Photo: Shaul Golan) (Photo: Shaul Golan)
V15 founders Itamar Weizman and Nimrod Dweck (Photo: Shaul Golan)


Senator Rob Portman, the subcommittee chairman, charged that “it is completely unacceptable that US taxpayer dollars were used to build a political campaign infrastructure that was deployed against the leader of our closest ally in the Middle East. The State Department ignored warnings signs and funded a politically active group in a politically sensitive environment with inadequate safeguards.”


The State Department has yet to comment on the report.


Nimrod Dweck, one of the founders of V15, said in response: "As the report specifically states, there was no use of State Department funds in the movement's campaign. The entire campaign was funded by private individuals, Israelis and Jews, from Israel and abroad."


OneVoice said in response: "The Senate subcommittee itself found that the organization completely fulfilled the terms of the State Department grant. In addition, the subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice used the grant money to influence the 2015 Israeli elections."


Members of Netanyahu's Likud party disagreed.


Minister Ze'ev Elkin asserted that "The Senate report reveals blatant interference in the democratic process in Israel, which only goes to show how needed the transparency law is with regards to political organizations that receive foreign funding."


MK Yoav Kisch added, "This is an outrage and a blatant attempt to change the government in Israel using funds from the American administration. The report's findings only increase the need to quickly pass the V15 bill that I am sponsoring. I will work to pass it in the first reading in the Knesset current session."


פרסום ראשון: 07.13.16, 11:11
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