Ever wonder how your tax dollars are being spent? According to a new report from the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), more than $300,000 of it has gone to an organization that sought to overthrow the prime minister of one of America’s closest allies.
The State Department funded an Israeli political group called OneVoice, according to the report, which in turn helped launch a campaign dedicated to overthrowing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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 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.
While the grants the U.S. funded went to political organizing for the peace process—expanding its social media presence and voter database, and hiring a U.S. political consulting firm to train members of the group in community organizing—it soon used these tools and education for a different purpose.
OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in part, with State Department grants funds to support V15. 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. 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.
More forethought in future grant agreements would be wise, as would greater oversight. But, this is the State Department. Can we really expect much to change?
H/T: The Weekly Standard