Israel began this week abuzz with debate over whether or not the Obama Administration is trying to interfere in Israel’s upcoming elections, and if so, how deeply the White House is involved in seeking “regime change.”
It is by now no secret that President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu don’t get along, to put it mildly.
So when a new political organization going by the name of V15 (Victory in 2015) sprang up with the sole purpose of bringing Netanyahu’s premiership to an end, it didn’t take long before Israelis were pondering the level of Obama’s association.
Reports that V15 had brought on board Jeremy Bird, national field director for Obama’s 2012 campaign, as its “secret weapon” only fueled the fire.
As officials in Netanyahu’s own Likud Party stressed to Israeli media, professional campaigners like Bird do not come cheap.
And given the fact that V15 is explicitly not campaigning on behalf of the opposition Labor Party – indeed, Labor Chairman Eitan Cabel told Channel 2 News that he knew little-to-nothing about the group – questions were raised as to the source of the money.
V15 officials responded that wealthy American and Israeli Jews had put up most, if not all of the funds, but no detailed accounting appeared forthcoming.
Waist deep in such murky and questionable waters, Likud petitioned the Election Committee to bar V15 from public activity, arguing that even if Labor was not directly involved, the group was in fact campaigning on behalf of the opposition, and that at least partially with foreign funding.
US Senator Ted Cruz, himself a potential Republican presidential candidate, further piqued Israeli suspicions when he wrote to US Secretary of State John Kerry noting that V15 was working in partnership with OneVoice, an American non-profit organization that receives government funding.
“We write to express strong concerns over the recent media reports that a US taxpayer funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called OneVoice is actively working with a campaign operation called V15 or ‘Victory 2015’ in an effort to influence the outcome of the elections in Israel on March 17, 2015,” penned Cruz, together with US House Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY).
The State Department brushed off any insinuations, insisting that OneVoice hadn’t received any grant money since November 2014 (a mere three months ago).