A U.S. State Department-funded group is financing an Israeli campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has hired former Obama aides to help with its grassroots organizing efforts.
U.S.-based activist group OneVoice International has partnered with V15, an "independent grassroots movement" in Israel that is actively opposing Netanyahu’s party in the upcoming elections, Ha’aretz reported on Monday. Former national field director for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign Jeremy Bird is also reportedly involved in the effort.
OneVoice development and grants officer Christina Taler said the group would be working with V15 on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts but would not engage in overtly partisan activities. She said OneVoice and V15 are still formalizing the partnership.
While V15 has not endorsed any particular candidates, it is working to oppose Netanyahu in the March elections.
"We’ve formed a partnership with [V15], but it’s important to know we’re absolutely nonpartisan," Taler told the Washington Free Beacon. "Our biggest emphasis and focus right now is just getting people out to vote."
OneVoice said in a press release on Tuesday that it is teaming up with V15 because Israel "need[s] a prime minister and a government who will be responsive to the people."
OneVoice International received two grants from the U.S. State Department over the past year, and lists the agency as a "partner" on its website. Taler said the group is not using this money for its Israeli election-related efforts.
"No government funding has gone toward any of the activities we’re doing right now whatsoever," she said.
Taler said the group used the State Department grants to "build public campaign support for the [Israeli-Palestinian] negotiations" spearheaded by Secretary of State John Kerry last spring.
OneVoice also recently hired Bird’s consulting firm 270 Strategies to "inform us better as a grassroots-organizing model."
Ha’aretz reported that Bird will work with the V15 campaign from an office in Tel Aviv.
OneVoice says it works to represent moderate Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints. Last August it sponsored an "Abbas not Hamas" campaign in support of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government has encouraged attacks against Israelis. Abbas’ son Yasser Mahmoud Abbas sits on the group’s advisory board.
Democrats have blasted the House GOP for inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress in March, claiming that Republicans are trying to give him a boost in the Israeli elections.
Bird suggested this week that the invitation to Netanyahu was related to Jewish Republican donors.
"What do you think Adelson promised GOP in exchange for this insane BiBi House visit?" Bird wrote on Twitter. "Blatant attempt to bolster Israeli PM before elections."