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Anti-Netanyahu Campaign Under Fire in Israel, United States

Likud party accuses group of violating Israeli campaign laws

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu / AP
• February 2, 2015 4:50 pm

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A campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is coming under fire this week in both Israel and the United States, as questions about its funding sources and supporters mount.

The V15 campaign, which is working to pull support from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, first came under scrutiny last week after Ha’aretz reported it is funded by the U.S.-based nonprofit OneVoice and hired top former Obama campaign officials as advisors. OneVoice has received funding from the State Department and lists the agency as one of its partners on its website, the Washington Free Beacon reported last week.

In a Sunday press conference, Netanyahu’s Likud Party accused V15 of violating election laws by unofficially campaigning for rival parties Meretz and Zionist Camp, and accepting foreign money. Last week, Likud filed an injunction to try to halt V15’s operations, claiming it was "making criminal use of anonymous foreign funding in extremely large amounts," according to Ha’artez.

The V15 campaign denied that it is engaging in overtly political campaigning. It said it is working to help register voters who will support moderates in the Israeli election in March.

The effort has also drawn criticism in the United States. Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for an investigation into whether any State Department funding was going toward the campaign and whether OneVoice violated its nonprofit status by financing V15.

OneVoice received two grants from the State Department last year, but the payments ended on Nov. 30, 2014. The group said the grant money was not used to fund its current work with V15.

OneVoice was founded by the American granola bar mogul Daniel Lubetzky, who owns KIND Healthy Snacks. On Monday, the conservative consumer advocacy group 2nd Vote sent a letter to Lubetzky asking for more information about his involvement in Israeli politics and his financial support for Democratic politicians in the United States.