US Tax Dollars Funded Anti-Netanyahu Election Campaign, Senate Finds

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.

3 replies
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    מחלקת המדינה האמריקנית מתחמקת מהטענות לפיהן העבירה כספים לארגון שמימן קמפיין להדחת ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו.

    “אינני הולך להיכנס לפרטים – אבל להבנתנו הדו”ח מבהיר שאין הוכחה שארגון ‘קול אחד’ השתמש בכסף כדי להשפיע על הבחירות בישראל”, אמר דובר מחלקת המדינה ג’ון קרי.

    הוא התייחס למסמך שחיברו סנאטורים רפובליקנים ודמוקרטים שנטלו חלק בועדת חקירה מטעם הסנאט, ממנו עולה כי מחלקת המדינה שילמה כ-350 אלף דולרים מכספי משלם המיסים האמריקני לארגון השמאל הקיצוני “קול אחד” שהשתמש בסכום בין היתר עבור קמפיין “V15” שכל תכליתו היתה הדחת נתניהו.

    הכסף אגב, הועבר בשנת 2014 לארגון במטרה לתמוך במאמציו לקדם משא ומתן מדיני והקמת מדינה פלסטינית – שכן למטרה זו הוא הוקם. אלא שאז הוקדמו הבחירות וייעוד הכסף שונה.

    ארגון ‘קול אחד’ נמצא על הכוונת של הקונגרס והסנאט כבר כשנתיים לאחר שהואשם בהזרמת כספים לקבוצות פוליטיות – שמטרתן היתה להחליף את השלטון בישראל. לטענת גורמים אמריקניים התנהלות כזו מצד עמותה כמו “קול אחד” שמקום מושבה בארצות הברית – עלול להוות עבירה על חוקי המס שם.

    החקירה העלתה כי הארגון ניתב את הכסף באופן מכוון לעמותות הפועלות נגד נתניהו – וכי באורח חשוד נמחקו כל התכתובות שהעידו על מערכת היחסים של הממשל עם הארגון – שפועל כעמותה ללא כוונת רווח. מעבר לכך, דו”ח וועדת המשנה בסנאט מותח ביקורת חריפה על העובדה שהממשל האמריקני לא עוקב אחרי המטרה של הכספים במיוחד במקומות בהן מערכת היחסים עם המדינה בה מושקע הכסף בעקיפין – רגישה מאוד.

    בארה”ב מייחסים חשיבות לסיפור השמדת התכתובת – שכן הקונגרס פועל באחרונה לשינוי שיטת התכתובות במחלקת המדינה – בעקבות כשלים חמורים שהתגלו בה.

    בפני הוועדה העיד מייקל ראטני, הקונסול האמריקני הכללי המשרת בקונסוליה בירושלים. הוא הודה שמחק תכתובות אימייל הנוגעות לתיאום מול “קול אחד”. בעקבות כך כתבה הוועדה כי מחלקת המדינה לא מסרה את כל המסמכים והתכתובות בנוגע לארגון והדבר מתמיה. המחיקה של הודעות הדוא”ל – נחשבת להפרה של החוק הפדרלי, המחייב לשמור בארכיון תכתובות מסוג זה.

    בכירים במחלקת המדינה העידו בפני הסנאטורים וטענו כי לו היו יודעים על התוכניות של ארגון “קול אחד” – היו עוצרים את הזרמת הכספים. לדידם, שמעו על הנושא רק בדיעבד.

    כותבי הדו”ח לא ממש מאמינים לאותם בכירים. הם מציינים כי אנשי “קול אחד” מסרו את שינוי התוכניות והחבירה ל-V15 לקראת הבחירות למספר בכירים במחלקת המדינה – אבל האחרונים לא עשו דבר. הם מבהירים שמחיקת המיילים – מונעת מהם מלהגיע לחקר האמת בנושא.

    בירושלים לא מגיבים באופן רשמי לדיווח, אבל גורמים מדיניים אומרים כי מדובר בהוכחה לטענות שהועלו בזמן הבחירות על התערבות אמריקנית – והמסמך של הסנאט מדבר בעד עצמו.

    שרת המשפטים איילת שקד התייחסה לנושא הבוקר ואמרה, “זה דבר חמור ביותר – שממשל אחר מתערב בבחירות במדינה אחרת. זה אחד הדברים החמורים שיש בעיני. אני העברתי השבוע את חוק השקיפות – וזה ממחיש כמה הוא חשוב. במדינת ישראל מדינות אחרות לא מכבדות את ריבונותינו לפעמים ובוחשות בעניינים פנימיים. זה חייב להיפסק”.

  2. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    The US State Department says that it did not intentionally fund an organization dedicated to ousting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during the last election campaign.

    “I’m not going to go into details, but to our understanding the report showed there is no proof that the OneVoice organization used money to influence the Israeli election,” said a spokesperson for the State Department.

    He referred to a report compiled by a bipartisan Senate investigatory committee on the issue. The committee found that the State Department gave about $350,000 of US taxpayers’ money to OneVoice, which then used the fruits of the resources for the V15 campaign, which was dedicated to electing anyone except Netanyahu.

    The funding was originally intended to promote efforts to renew negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state. OneVoice used the money to build its infrastructure, enlist activists and train its members in grassroots activism. Shortly after its connection with the US ended, the group used the same resources to attack Netanyahu’s campaign.

    OneVoice has been in Congress’s sights for the past two years, after it was accused of funneling money to domestic Israeli political organizations. According to US officials, such conduct by an NGO like OneVoice, which is registered in the US, may violate tax laws.

    The investigation revealed that the organization intentionally transferred the money to an group that worked against Netanyahu. Suspiciously, all of the correspondence indicating the relationship between the government and V15 was deleted. In addition, the committee report strongly criticized the fact that the US government did not keep track of where its money ultimately ended up.

    The US is treating the issue of the deleted correspondence as very serious, particularly as the State Department has been in hot water over the handling of e-mails recently.

    Michael Ratney, the former US Consul General in Jerusalem, admitted to the committee that he deleted the correspondence with OneVoice. Afterwards, the committee wrote that the State Department did not disclose all of the relevant documents and correspondence, which raised suspicion. Deleting e-mails is considered a violation of federal law, which requires all such e-mails to be archived.

    Senior State Department officials also testified, saying that, had they known of OneVoice’s intentions, they would have stopped the flow of money. However, they only heard about the issue after the fact.

    The report’s authors, though, did not have much faith in the officials. They stated that OneVoice’s members disclosed their plans and put V15 in touch with several State Department officials before the election. Yet the officials did nothing. The report claims that deleting the e-mails prevented them from searching out the truth.

    Jerusalem has not officially responded to the report, though officials say it proves the claims of US interference that were raised at the time of the elections, and that the Senate document speaks for itself.

    Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said, “It is a very serious issue for a government to interfere in another country’s election. In my opinion, it is one of the most serious issues. I passed the Transparency Law this week, and this demonstrates how important it is. Other countries don’t respect Israel’s sovereignty and sometimes interfere in internal affairs. This must stop.”

  3. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    The U.S. State Department sent nearly $350,000 to an advocacy group that worked to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Senate report released Tuesday.

    OneVoice Movement, a group that supported peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian factions, received grants from the State Department during a 14-month period ending in November 2014, according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report.

    Shortly after the U.S. grants ended, OneVoice merged with an Israeli group Victory 15, which launched a political campaign in Israel with a goal to elect “anyone but Bibi,” a nickname for Netanyahu.

    The chairman of the committee, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, claims that means that U.S. money was involved in foreign politics.

    “The United States should not be engaged in that kind of activity with taxpayer dollars,” he said. “What it did probably was to make it even more difficult to come together after the election and continue to build on the relationship between Israel and the United States.”

    According to the report, the State Department grants helped OneVoice build its political infrastructure, including voter contact lists and professionally trained organizers. It also included expanding social media platforms intended to support peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

    The Senate subcommittee said Tuesday no evidence was found that OneVoice spent the grant money to influence the 2015 Israeli election, but found in its report that “despite OneVoice’s previous political activism in the 2013 Israeli election, 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.”

    The report also said the State Department was unable to produce all the documents the subcommittee requested because it failed to retain complete email records.

    “While this report shows no wrongdoing by the Administration, and should put to rest such allegations, it certainly highlights deficiencies in the Department’s policies that should be addressed in order to best protect taxpayer dollars,” Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the Senate subcommittee’s top Democrat, said in a statement.

    The State Department said Tuesday in response to the report that it followed existing guidelines.

    “The report makes clear there’s no evidence OneVoice spent State Department funds to influence Israeli elections,” said State Department Spokesman John Kirby.

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