Israeli MKs Angered by U.S. Senate Report on V15 Funding
Jerusalem (TPS) — Right-wing Israeli lawmakers reacted angrily on Wednesday morning to the findings of a United States Senate report released on Monday, according to which the American State Department provided funding to V15, an Israeli NGO, during last year’s election campaign in an effort to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the report, V15 received $349,276 from the American State Department during the election campaign. The money was funnelled to V15 through its parent organization OneVoice, which works to advance the two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
“This is scandalous — a blunt attempt to overthrow the Israeli government using U.S. government funding,” MK Yoav Kisch of the Likud party told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “It was a blunt and bizarre intervention in Israel’s internal affairs. This report underscores the urgent need to pass my V15 bill.”
MK Kisch was referring to a bill he introduced in March that would prevent political NGOs from receiving foreign funds during an election campaign.
Israeli campaign finance regulations forbid political parties from having connections with NGOs that support a specific party or candidate. While V15, which described itself as non-partisan, did not endorse Zionist Union candidate Isaac Herzog — thus following the letter of the law — it worked to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 2015 elections, adopting the slogan “Anyone but Bibi.”
Describing the revelation as a “diplomatic earthquake,” MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) slammed the U.S. government for meddling in Israel’s internal affairs. “It is outlandish and unbelievable,” he told TPS. “The transparency law could not have come at a better time.”
MK Smotrich was speaking of a law passed in the Knesset on Monday that requires NGOs that receive more than half of their budget from a foreign government to reveal that fact in all their published material.
The party that benefited the most from V15’s work during the 2015 election campaign was Zionist Union, which was considered the main alternative to the Likud. Zionist Union MKs quickly denied any connection to V15, as did MK Eitan Cabel, who headed its election committee in 2015. “Personally, I say outright and in the clearest possible way: I am unaware of any affiliation between V15 and Zionist Union,” Cabel told TPS.
Political strategist Reuven Adler, who worked for Zionist Union during the elections, agreed. “They did not assist us in any way,” he told TPS. ”We never spoke to them, and our polls never showed any sign that they helped us at all.”
Tal Harris, who was the director of OneVoice during the 2015 elections, refused to comment.
A State Department spokesperson denied the allegations. “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,” he said.