Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz and New York Republican congressman Lee Zeldin demanded answers from Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, sending a letter with questions regarding a taxpayer-funded nonprofit working with President Obama’s former national campaign field director to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We write to express strong concerns over the recent media reports that a U.S. taxpayer funded 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called OneVoice is actively working with a campaign operation called V15 or ‘Victory 2015′ in an effort to influence the outcome of the elections in Israel, on March 17, 2015,” the two GOP lawmakers begin.
They reference an article from the Hebrew edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz claiming that OneVoice — a nonprofit funded in part by the American taxpayer — flew five American experts into Tel Aviv to help run the campaign to beat Netanyahu in the upcoming vote. One of those experts was Jeremy Bird, a two-time Obama campaign veteran who was the president’s national campaign field director in 2012.
The article alleges that OneVoice is working closely with “Victory 2015,” an Israeli organization openly pushing to defeat Netanyahu. In fact, Haaretz claims OneVoice will “merge” with V15 before the Israeli elections take place.
“Given the overtly partisan nature of this particular case, we are deeply concerned by the relationship that also exists between OneVoice and the U.S. Department of State,” the lawmakers continue, noting that OneVoice lists the State Department as a sponsor on their website. The group claims it received U.S. Government grants from the American embassy in Tel Aviv and took money from the State Department in 2014.
“Given the public statements by a number of Obama administration officials, including the President, that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for the government of the United States to exercise any influence over elections in a foreign country including Israel, we believe this issue demands your urgent attention,” Cruz and Zeldin write. “There appears to be a danger that U.S. taxpayer funds are being used to directly shape the outcome of the upcoming Israeli election–and specifically to campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu–something all would agree would be highly inappropriate.”
There is no bad blood lost between the Israeli prime minister and the White House, particularly after Netanyahu’s acceptance of a March 3 invitation by House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress on the issue of Iranian sanctions. President Obama is reportedly livid over the move, believing it could scuttle his attempts to hold off congressional sanctions against the Islamic theocracy before negotiations over its nuclear program are complete.
The White House is refusing to meet with Netanyahu during his visit, claiming it is not U.S. policy to meet with foreign leaders two weeks before their upcoming election for fear of influencing the outcome.