- Bipartisan Senate probe: Campaign infrastructure built with U.S. funds was used to influence Israeli election
Information databases created with funds from a State Department grant to an Israeli NGO were later used to support a campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election, a bipartisan Senate report revealed on Tuesday. The Senate inquiry followed accusations in both Israel and the U.S. that the White House had attempted to interfere in the Israeli election. The State Department provided OneVoice, an NGO that encourages support for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, with almost $350,000 over a 14-month period that ended in November 2014, four months before the most recent Israeli election. OneVoice then joined with the Israeli group V15 in a campaign to unseat Netanyahu by mobilizing people to vote for center-left parties. Although the Senate investigation found no evidence that OneVoice spent State Department funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections, it did find that the campaign infrastructure—which was partly developed using grant funds—were deployed against Netanyahu after the grant period ended. “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… and enlisted its network of trained activists, many of whom were recruited or trained under the grant, to support and recruit for V15,” the report explained.
Moreover, during the grant period, OneVoice informed at least two State Department officials of its strategic plan to support a partisan political campaign, but the State Department took no action, “despite the fact that influencing a foreign election is across ‘a red line’ for U.S. grantees,” the report states. The Senate probe scolded the State Department, noting that although the Department was aware of OneVoice’s previous activism in the 2013 Israeli election, it “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.” Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the leaders of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which led the probe, supported the results of the investigation. “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 of our closest ally in the Middle East,” Portman stated.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who rose to her office on Wednesday after the resignation of David Cameron, has a long history of support for Israel and other Jewish causes, forecasting continued warm relations between Israel and the United Kingdom. May served as Home Secretary (responsible for immigration, security, and the justice system) for six years, and showed herself to be “a long-standing friend of Israel and the Jewish community,” former Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Daniel Taub told The Jerusalem Post. May was a strong supporter of “efforts to deepen British-Israel ties in the area of homeland security, and also very receptive to the concerns of the Jewish community regarding anti-Semitism and violent extremism,” Taub said.May has visited Israel once, on an official trip in the summer of 2014 to learn about Israel’s practices in policing, human trafficking, and cyber-security. She spoke there about being moved by her visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, calling the Holocaust “the worst crime in history.” She also spoke out vociferously against terror after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens during her visit.
May was similarly outspoken after the killings of four Jews by an Islamic militant in a Paris kosher supermarket, decrying anti-Semitism in Europe and being photographed with a “Je sui Juif” placard.
May and her husband had dinner with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at his home on Tuesday night. She maintained her long-scheduled appointment despite the fact that she was due to be installed as prime minister the following day.
“The fact that she did this in the midst of critically important preparations before taking up office is a reflection of her strong desire to keep to her commitments and the esteem in which she holds the British Jewish community,” Mirvis said before the dinner. He added in a statement after the meal that “Few people are more talented or better qualified to tackle [the country’s] immense challenges.
I recall the speed and the sensitivity with which she reached out to the Jewish community following the terror attacks on Jewish targets in Europe last year. As she made clear then – “Without its Jews, Britain would not be Britain.”British Jews, long a bipartisan constituency, have decisively broken for the Conservative Party in recent years as the Labour Party continues to be mired in a months-long anti-Semitism scandal. (via TheTower.org)
She has proved herself to be a friend and champion of our community and of other faith communities who share her values of tolerance and understanding. I wish her every success as Prime Minister and look forward to building upon our warm relationship over the coming years.