I often write about “perfidious Albion”, referring to the hypocrisy and two-faced bias of Britain against Israel. But in the last few years under the Obama Administration, it is America, or more precisely the State Department, that has earned the dubious distinction of being the most perfidious of our friends.
The latest scandal concerns the V15 NGO which worked to undermine Israel’s election process in order to bring about the defeat of Binyamin Netanyahu. Already back then, during the election season, it was revealed that it was the State Department that stood behind V15, hiding behind other proxy organizations. In other words the United States Administration was interfering in Israel’s domestic politics – something which is an absolute no-no for democratic countries, and something for which Netanyahu himself was (wrongly) accused of by the State Department itself (!) when he led the campaign against the Iran nuclear deal.
After this shocking revelation of State Department involvement, the US Senate, an altogether more balanced and pro-Israel institution, undertook an investigation into the accusations. The Weekly Standard reports that The Senate has now issued a report confirming this State Department interference (via Chaim):
A new report posted today by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led by chair Rob Portman (R-OH) confirms that the U.S. State Department funded an Israeli political organization that later ran a campaign dedicated to ousting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The group, OneVoice, has drawn media scrutiny that led to this investigation.
Some key findings from the report:
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.1 The Israeli and Palestinian arms of OneVoice, OneVoice Israel (OVI), and OneVoice Palestine (OVP), received more than $300,000 in grants from the U.S. State Department to support peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine over a 14- month grant period ending in November 2014.
The grants funded expanded “social media presence, built a larger voter database, and hired an American political consulting firm to train its activists and executives in grassroots organizing methods in support of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”
Only, once the infrastructure was built, it was used in an attempt to topple the government of one of America’s closest allies.
[…] 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.
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. Despite OneVoice’s previous political activism in the 2013 Israeli election, the 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.
You can read the whole report here.
Just one small item from the 28-page report (on p.13) demonstrates the nefarious strategy of this organization:
OneVoice refined this strategic plan over the course of several months. By August 2014, OneVoice leadership circulated a revised, “finalized AND APPROVED” strategy memo framed around a top strategic objective:
SHIFT SUPPORT WITHIN THE KNESSET AWAY FROM
LIKUD/RIGHT WING COALITION BY ADVOCATING TO
‘SWING’ CENTRIST VOTER’S [sic] POLICIES AND SUPPORT POLITICAL CANDIDATES WHO EMBRACE AN EXPEDITED NEGOTIATION TOWARD A [TWO-STATE SOLUTION] AND THE END OF SETTLEMENT EXPANSION.
Adding insult to injury, the Jewish Press reports that the State Department has been destroying evidence connected to this blatant disregard for democratic norms:
Meanwhile, according to the Washington Free Beacon, a State Department senior official admitted to the committee that he deleted several emails with information about the campaign, or as the report put it, “The State Department was unable to produce all documents responsive to the Subcommittee’s requests due to its failure to retain complete email records of Michael Ratney, who served as US Consul General in Jerusalem during the award and oversight of the OneVoice grants.”
How convenient. Again, the Senate report (p.17) contradicts the State Department’s denials:
The record is clear, however, that OneVoice did inform at least two State Department officials of its political plans, and it did so during the grant period. The Department took no action in response, although it is unclear whether the officials in receipt of the plans reviewed them.
With the exposure of this outrageous interference in a democratic ally’s domestic politics, you would think the US Administration would keep a more low profile for the moment. You would be wrong. The Elder of Ziyon discovered that the State Department is actively working to promote a boycott of Ariel University:
I visited Ariel University last week. It is a very impressive place and, considering that it is considered by most of the world to be an “obstacle to peace”by virtue of its location on the wrong side of an arbitrary line drawn by some Westerners in 1949, it is surprisingly apolitical, with students from all over the world including Israeli Arabs. (I am told that the PA will not let Palestinian Arabs attend.)
While there, a senior official told me about something that happened not too long ago.
Ariel University was in negotiations to partner with two US universities on various initiatives as universities partner with each other all the time. (I was told which ones they were but am not permitted to name them.) One was intended to be a general partnership, the other was a specific partnership with the architecture school at Ariel which is well-regarded.
Both those negotiations were abruptly cancelled.
When officials at Ariel asked the schools what happened, they were told (off the record) that the US State Department had put pressure on the American schools to stop any partnerships with Ariel University since it is in the territories.
The State Department is working against Israel and is taking sides against Israel before any final status negotiations. The schools involved are too scared and vulnerable to push back.
This is a new low for the State Department in working clandestinely against its greatest Middle East Ally.
Furthermore, yesterday the US voiced concern for free speech over Israel’s new NGO bill which requires transparency from foreign-funded NGOs:
The law — approved by Knesset late Monday night — mandates that non-government organizations that receive more than half their funds from foreign governments or state agencies disclose that fact in any public reports, advocacy literature and interactions with government officials, or face a NIS 29,000 fine ($7,500).
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a briefing that some of Washington’s concerns regarding the bill were alleviated by amendments made before it was finally passed by Israeli legislators.
Nonetheless, he expressed the White House’s concerns “not just about free expression but association and dissent.”
The law was passed a day before a bipartisan Senate report found that the V15 campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 was indirectly funded by US State Department dollars.
Likud minister Zeev Elkin said Tuesday that the Senate’s findings were proof “of how correct the laws of transparency in foreign state funding of NGOs is.”
Critics, meanwhile, maintain the law unfairly targets left-wing and human rights organizations, many of which receive funding from European countries.
Responding to those critics, Sheri Oz at Israellycool asks some very pointed questions:
- What makes an NGO that receives funds from a government, foreign or otherwise, an NGO? After all, in case people have forgotten – NGO means NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION. It seems that in order to qualify as such, the organization would have to have no government contribution to its functioning.
- How many left-wing organizations are NOT affected by the Transparency Law? If the answer is 0, or even 5, then the question of interest becomes: what is it about left-wing issues that makes left-wing NGOs disproportionately subject to foreign government investment? After all, money talks, money is power, follow the money. There have to be vital interests at stake for foreign governments to be willing to put their money down in any particular way.
These are very important questions, and the foreign-funded NGOs – as Sheri points out, foreign-government funded – should answer these points forthwith. But please don’t hold your breath.
And as a last aside on this issue of foreign interference, the ToI notes that the European Union too asserts that the NGO bill undermines Israel’s democratic values. This is indeed rich coming from that most undemocratic of institutions, i.e. the EU itself, which decrees how many refugees every country must take, and issues floods of regulations on the most minor of matters! No wonder that Britain voted to leave!
As David Hazony remarked:
The Israeli government must be much more forceful in rejecting this insidious foreign interference and undermining of our sovereignty and democracy. And they should throw the accusations of “violation of free speech” or “undermining democratic values” back in the faces of these foreign governments who have forgotten that Israel is not a vassal state nor managed by a UN Mandate.