Senate subcommittee: Obama used taxpayer dollars to influence outcome of Israel election

by WorldTribune Staff, January 8, 2017

The Obama administration attempted to influence the results of Israel’s election by funneling U.S. taxpayer funds to a political group opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau, according to a congressional report.

The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) said the State Department gave $349,276 in U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to the OneVoice Movement, which had built a political infrastructure aimed at defeating Netanyahu’s re-election bid in 2015.

Sen. Rob Portman: 'American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.' /AP
Sen. Rob Portman: ‘American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.’ /AP

“It is completely unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars were used to build a political campaign infrastructure that was deployed — immediately after the grant ended — against the leader [Netanyahu] of our closest ally in the Middle East,” said Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican and chairman of the PSI. “American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.”

The subcommittee’s report said that within weeks of the Knesset’s vote to schedule new elections for March 2015, “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 subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections. Soon after the grant period ended [November 2014], however, 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.”

OneVoice even informed the State Department about its anti-Netanyahu campaign “during the federal grant period,” said Marc Thiessen, a resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. “But the State Department did nothing.”

As the subcommittee reported: “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.”

Part of the plan’s objective was to “strengthen the [center-left] bloc, rather than any one party, [and] in tandem weaken Netanyahu and his right wing parties,” the subcommittee report said.

“Additionally, the proposal listed seven ‘Specific Israeli Tactical Objectives.’ The second objective was clear: ‘Shift support within the Knesset from a Likud-centric coalition to a center left coalition through public education and grassroots mobilization initiatives.’ ”

According to the subcommittee: “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, “after the State Department grant period ended, OneVoice shifted its focus to influencing the electoral outcome by working to defeat incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu,” said the subcommittee. “Planning for this effort began during the period when OneVoice was still a State Department grantee.”

“OneVoice did not use State Department funds directly for political activities, or seek State Department grants in anticipation of the Israeli elections, but it did use the campaign infrastructure and resources that it had built, in part, with State Department funds to support a campaign to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu in the 2015 elections,” said the subcommittee.