WASHINGTON – The Senate subcommittee on investigations published a report on Tuesday finding that OneVoice, an international non-profit organization once funded by the State Department, actively campaigned against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during Israel’s 2015 national parliamentary elections.
The “infrastructure and resources” of that campaign was built, in part, by funding from their State Department grant, the report found.
OneVoice entered headlines in 2015 after absorbing Victory15, an Israeli group that was actively campaigning against the Netanyahu government. One year earlier, OneVoice had successfully secured $300,000 in a grant from the State Department.
“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,” the report stated.
The subcommittee found that OneVoice fully complied with the terms of its State Department grant, designing and executing “a grassroots and media campaign to promote public support for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations for the Department, as it said it would.”
In a statement, OneVoice defended itself by noting the Senate report found the group in full compliance with the terms of its grants.
“The subcommittee ‘found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections,'” OneVoice noted, quoting from the report. “The subcommittee also praised OneVoice for its cooperation and for being ‘forthright’ with the State Department about its work.”
“The State Department grant concluded before Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu issued his surprise call for early elections,” they added. “OneVoice will continue its important work promoting peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.”
In 2015, State Department officials denied any knowledge of OneVoice’s campaign against Netanyahu or any connection between that campaign and its grant funding.
“The subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections,” the report concludes. “Soon after the grant period ended, however, OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in part, with State Department grants funds to support V15.”
The Senate report also says the State 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.”
Notably, this investigation was signed off by members of both parties– unusual for this type of Senate report.
Subcommittee chairman Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and ranking member Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) drew different conclusions from the same findings, however: Portman said that the State Department “ignored warning signs” of OneVoice’s political activism, while McCaskill highlighted the fact that the report found no wrongdoing on the part of the Obama administration.