According to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), the State Department gave $349,276 in U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to a political group in Israel to build a campaign operation, which subsequently was used to try to influence Israelis to vote against conservative Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2015 election for prime minister.
In the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report about the State Department’s action, Chairman Bob Portman (R-Ohio) said, “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. American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.”
“The State Department ignored warning signs and funded a politically active group in a politically sensitive environment with inadequate safeguards,” said Portman in a July 12, 2016 press release.
The State Department had funded a series of grants in 2013-2014, totaling $349,276, which went to the One Voice Movement, which has Israeli and Palestinian branches: One Voice Israel and One Voice Palestine. (The grant period ended in November 2014.) These groups support peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, and a two-state solution based on the borders of 1967.
The Subcommittee’s report says, “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 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. (Emphasis added.)
“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.”
One of the State Department diplomats “who received the plan told the Subcommittee that he never reviewed it,” reads the report. The proposal was entitled A Strategic Plan to Mobilize Centrist Israeli & Palestinian.
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,” quotes the Subcommittee report.
“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.’”
But, if the Russians did covertly attempt to alter the outcome of the presidential election, it would seem somewhat hypocritical of the U.S. government to take umbrage. After all, the United States, under several presidents both Democrat and Republican, has repeatedly interfered in foreign elections, both covertly and overtly, multiple times in the past several decades.
Most recently, President Obama told British voters that they better not vote for Brexit — the public vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (EU) — or they would find themselves “at the back of the queue [line]” in getting any sort of trade deal with the United States. Of course, with Obama leaving office on January 20, he would not be making any trade deals with anyone much longer anyway.
Obama went on to say, “I think this [membership in the EU] makes you guys bigger players,” at a joint press conference with then-British Prime Minister David Cameron, a staunch supporter of remaining in the EU. In the end, the British did not take Obama’s “advice,” and opted to leave the EU.
It was not the first time that the Obama administration attempted to determine the outcome of a foreign election. In the last Israeli election, the Obama State Department funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to the opposition of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that the State Department and a group called One Voice coordinated political activities — including the building of a voter database, the training of activists, and the hiring of a political consulting firm tied to President Obama himself.