The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Rob Portman (R-OH), reported on Tuesday that the Obama administration had funded the OneVoice Movement, a leftwing group that waged a smear campaign to oust Netanyahu during the 2015 elections.
Meanwhile, according to the Washington Free Beacon, a State Department senior official admitted to the committee that he deleted several emails with information about the campaign, or as the report put it, “The State Department was unable to produce all documents responsive to the Subcommittee’s requests due to its failure to retain complete email records of Michael Ratney, who served as US Consul General in Jerusalem during the award and oversight of the OneVoice grants.”
As to the campaign itself, the report said: “On December 2, 2014, at the urging of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Knesset voted to schedule new national parliamentary elections for March 2015. Within weeks, an international organization known as the OneVoice Movement absorbed and funded an Israeli group named Victory15 or ‘V15’ and launched a multimillion-dollar grassroots campaign in Israel. The campaign’s goal was to elect ‘anybody but Bibi [Netanyahu]’ by mobilizing center-left voters. The Israeli and Palestinian arms of OneVoice, OneVoice Israel (OVI), and OneVoice Palestine (OVP), received more than $300,000 in grants from the U.S. State Department to support peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine over a 14- month grant period ending in November 2014.
“OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in part, with State Department grants funds to support V15. In service of V15, OneVoice deployed its social media platform, which more than doubled during the State Department grant period; used its database of voter contact information, including email addresses, which OVI expanded during the grant period; and enlisted its network of trained activists, many of whom were recruited or trained under the grant, to support and recruit for V15. This pivot to electoral politics was consistent with a strategic plan developed by OneVoice leadership and emailed to State Department officials during the grant period. The State Department diplomat who received the plan told the Subcommittee that he never reviewed it.
“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. 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.”
Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said in a statement that the State Dept. funding of the V15 campaign constitutes a blunt intervention on the part of the US in Israel’s internal affairs, which proves once again how timely and vital the new NGO transparency legislation has been. “The people of Israel have elected a government to take care of the national and security interests of Israeli citizens and not to execute the dangerous plans foreign countries are trying to arrange for us.”