The CIA’s allegation that Russian hackers attempted to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump has resulted in hysteria from Democrats, who have jumped on the theory as another means of explaining away the historic upset of the formerly “inevitable” Hillary Clinton. But before the Democrats get too carried away, a quick reminder: a bipartisan congressional report concluded that a non-profit funded by the Obama State Department attempted to influence the 2015 Israeli election to oust conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a vocal critic of the Iran deal.
After an extensive investigation, a bipartisan Senate subcommittee issued a report in July of this year stating that the non-profit organization OneVoice, which had received hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money from the State Department, had actively campaigned against Netanyahu during the 2015 Israeli election.
The Senate report confirmed what Netanyahu’s team had said back in 2015: Obama had played a far more active role in the Israeli election than the American media had reported. Netanyahu’s campaign specifically cited the involvement of Obama political operative Jeremy Bird and OneVoice, which they said had funded a campaign called V15 against the Israeli leader.
The report detailed that a year before absorbing anti-Netanyahu Israeli group V15, OneVoice had received a $300,000 State Department grant. After having received the large infusion of cash, the non-profit used V15 to make an aggressive push to topple the Obama Iran deal’s most ardent critic. While the report found that the Obama administration had not technically acted illegally, the committee chided the administration for the reckless distribution of federal funds used to meddle with another country’s election.
“The subcommittee found no evidence that OneVoice spent grant funds to influence the 2015 Israeli elections,” the report states; however, the committee notes that the Senate department did not “take any steps” to make sure its funds were not misused.
“Soon after the grant period ended, however, OneVoice used the campaign infrastructure and resources built, in part, with State Department grant funds to support V15,” reads the report, adding, that the State 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.”
The mission of OneVoice when it received the grant money was to create and execute “a grassroots and media campaign to promote public support for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations for the department,” which is what it claims it was doing by opposing Netanyahu.
OneVoice adamantly denies any wrongdoing, noting that, “The State Department grant concluded before Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu issued his surprise call for early elections.” Netanyahu’s Likud party, however, cited the connection between the Obama administration and their rivals as an example of the concerted effort to take down the conservative prime minister. They also accused V15 of having broken multiple Israeli election laws.
The State Department denied in 2015 that it had any knowledge of OneVoice’s involvement in the anti-Netanyahu campaign, but the role one of Obama’s former operatives played in V15 makes the situation even more questionable.
The public feud between Obama and Netanyahu came to a head in 2015 when the Israeli PM openly criticized the “very bad” Iran deal in front of the U.S. Congress. “This is a bad deal — a very bad deal. We’re better off without it,” Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress on March 3, 2015. The prime minister dismissed the claim by the deal’s proponents that the only alternative was “war,” saying instead “the alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.” The “bad deal,” he argued, would “guarantee that Iran eventually obtains nuclear weapons, which he suggested would inevitably be pointed at Israel.