ionist groups in the U.S. have lashed out at what they say is a purported attempt by the U.S. to get involved in Israeli elections. The Zionist Organization of America published a report titled “Obama campaign team works to defeat Netanyahu,” stating while Obama refuses to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his coming March visit to Washington, saying he does not want to meddle in Israeli politics, a team of up to five of Obama’s campaign staff has reportedly arrived in Israel to work on a campaign to take down Netanyahu in the coming elections.
“It is simply hypocrisy and interference in Israel’s elections for President Obama to say that he will not meet with the Israeli prime minister because Israeli elections are too close, while his closest electoral advisers suddenly appear in Israel for the sole purpose of leading a campaign to unseat the Israeli prime minister,” ZOA President Morton Klein said.
The outrage was a response to a Haaretz report on Monday that Jeremy Bird, a political strategist for the Obama campaign, came to Israel with four consultants to help and advise the Victory 2015, or V15, campaign, whose goal is to “replace the current government.” The group’s activities focus on social networks and street activism.
According to Bird, the strategy is to convince indifferent or undecided voters to vote for the candidates the activists are promoting.
“There is no reason for it not to work in Israel,” Bird told Haaretz.
Bird’s 270 Strategies office confirmed to Israel Hayom that it is working in Israel alongside OneVoice, the umbrella group for V15. The office also stated that Bird is not in Israel right now.
The Likud party petitioned the Central Elections Committee against Labor, Hatnuah and Meretz, to bar them from using indirect propaganda that is not part of their actual election campaigns, and using the projects V15 and 61. Project 61 seeks to make election polls more accessible to the public.
The Likud petitioners called for Central Elections Committee Chairman Justice Salim Joubran to order the political parties using the projects to release a statement informing the public that using projects V15 and 61 may constitute a violation of campaign financing laws. Joubran asked for clarifications from Labor, Hatnuah and Meretz, as well as responses from the State Comptroller’s and Attorney-General’s offices.
V15 receives the majority of its funding from OneVoice, which is financed by the Mexican-born, Texas-based businessman Daniel Lubetzky, who works to “strengthen moderate voices among Israelis and Palestinians.”
According to Haaretz, by the time voting begins, OneVoice is expected to partner with V15, with the joint goal of getting tens of thousands of volunteers to knock on the doors of between 150,000 and 1 million people to promote their campaign, just as was done during the Obama campaign in 2008.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, “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.” OneVoice development and grants officer Christina Taler said the group was not using U.S. government money for its Israeli election-related efforts.
Taler confirmed that OneVoice was partnering with V15.
“We’ve formed a partnership with [V15], but it’s important to know we’re absolutely nonpartisan. Our biggest emphasis and focus right now is just getting people out to vote,” Taler told the Washington Free Beacon.
On OneVoice’s Israeli board is Oriella Ben Zvi, wife of former Labor MK Daniel Ben Simon, himself a former Haaretz journalist. Ben Zvi founded public relations firm Ben-Or Communications with Jeremy Ben Ami, who later went to create J Street, an advocacy organization that describes itself as “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” and sees itself as a counterweight to the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby.
Also on the board is former Knesset member and now the Zionist Camp’s No. 16, Yoel Hasson. A former Likud member, Hasson switched to Kadima and then later to Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah. According to reports in recent months, J Street transferred thousands of dollars to Ben-Or Communications for “services rendered to the lobby.”
Among Ben-Or’s client list: the New Israel Fund, Betselem, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Peres Peace Center, and Amnesty International. According to various reports, Ben-Or worked for free for any campaigns involving boycotting Israeli products.
The sources of V15’s funding remain mysterious.
Members of V15 said that they do not “support any specific candidate or party … not only due to legal limitations. … Supporting one specific party divides people and pushes the activists apart. It is important for us to uphold the law and be honest.”
In response, public relations firm Pro Strategy released a statement on behalf of V15: “To clarify ahead of time, if the article includes inaccurate or misleading information legal proceedings will be taken. We call for our response to be printed in full, as written and without any editing or changes.
“1. We are aware that the Victory 2015 campaign is the most active and engaging item of the current elections. Its formation began exactly three days after the official date of the 20th Knesset elections was announced. We bring with us a young spirit and professional experience learned from other winning campaigns around the world.
“2. We are not in any way connected to J Street, the New Israel Fund, the U.S. government or George Soros. The panic overtaking the Likud’s elections campaign and the loss of ground by the Right to activists from Victory 2015 is no reason for paranoia, illusions and the spread of lies about an alleged coordinated effort with the American government.
“3. Mr. Jeremy Bird is not in Israel.”
At press time, the group had not responded to inquiries as to when and under which name it was registered with the Israeli Registrar of Associations.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom and may be found here.