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State Department Sent Taxpayer Funds to Group Trying to Oust Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu / AP
• July 12, 2016 1:18 pm

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The U.S. State Department funneled tax dollars to a group that worked to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Senate report released Tuesday.

OneVoice Movement, a group that supports Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations, received $465,000 in grants from the State Department during a 14-month period ending in November 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report found.

Soon after receiving U.S. funds, OneVoice merged with Israeli group Victory 15, or V15, to launch a multimillion-dollar campaign in Israel with the goal to elect "anybody but Bibi," a nickname for Netanyahu.

The State Department grants helped OneVoice build its political infrastructure, including voter contact lists, professionally trained organizers and activists, and an expanded social media platform, that was initially intended to mobilize the Israeli electorate to support peace negotiations.

In December 2014, a month after the group stopped receiving U.S. grants, OneVoice diverted its U.S.-funded political resources into its anti-Netanyahu campaign ahead of Israel’s 2015 election, according to the report.

OnceVoice CEO Marc Ginsberg emailed its new plan aimed at ousting Netanyahu to the State Department’s top diplomat in Jerusalem, Michael Ratney, during the grant period. The State Department deleted the correspondence despite the Federal Records Act requirement.

The Senate committee obtained the emails from OneVoice.

The committee, led by Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), said that State Department guidelines failed to prohibit OneVoice from using the U.S. grants for political purposes, allowing the group to ultimately syphon U.S. tax dollars into its anti-Netanyahu imitative.

"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," the report said.

The State Department has not yet responded to the report.