Congressional Investigation: US tax dollars aided anti-Netanyahu campaign

Poster calling to replace the government in the 2015 election

American tax payer dollars were used to fund opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection campaign in 2015, according to a congressional investigation that concluded Tuesday, July 12, 2016.

The US State Department gave $349,000 to OneVoice, an Israeli organization, under the auspices of furthering a Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. But the organization used the money to hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Barack Obama’s campaign and worked against Netanyahu’s reelection efforts, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a bipartisan report.

Although the report found no legal wrongdoing by the State Department committee chairman Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, opined the use of American money in foreign politics.

“The United States should not be engaged in that kind of activity with taxpayer dollars,” he said. “What it did probably was to make it even more difficult to come together after the election and continue to build on the relationship between Israel and the United States.”

OneVoice had been politically active in Israel’s 2013 elections, which, the report said, should have been a red flag to State Department officials to control funding with strict requirements included in its grant approval.

“The State Department ignored warning signs and funded a politically active group in a politically sensitive environment with inadequate safeguards,” Portman said. “It is completely unacceptable that US taxpayer dollars were used to build a political campaign infrastructure that was deployed — immediately after the grant ended — against the leader of our closest ally in the Middle East. American resources should be used to help our allies in the region, not undermine them.”

The administration isn’t accused of breaking any laws, rather of poor oversight.

“It certainly highlights deficiencies in the Department’s policies that should be addressed in order to best protect taxpayer dollars,” Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the Senate subcommittee’s top Democrat, said.

The subcommittee also said that OneVoice told the State Department’s top diplomat in Jerusalem of its plans via email, but Consul General Michael Ratney claims he never saw them because he regularly deleted emails with large attachments, an action in itself a violation of open-record laws.