Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A campaign to encourage Israeli voters to bring about a change in leadership, involving a former national field director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, has raised claims of inappropriate US involvement in next month’s elections.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a possible 2016 candidate for president, and New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of State John Kerry calling on the State Department inspector-general to investigate whether OneVoice Israel – part of the OneVoice Movement, a US-based nonprofit organization – has used US grant money to support its partnership with another organization – V15 – and whether its actions violate its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
“We write to express strong concerns over the recent media reports that a US taxpayer funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit 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,” wrote Cruz and Zeldin.
Some right-wing agenda- driven websites said Obama himself is behind the campaign in order to oust Netanyahu. The claims gathered steam after a report last week in Haaretz disclosing that OneVoice Israel is also working with 270 Strategies, a consulting firm led by Jeremy Bird, former national field director for the 2012 Obama campaign.
The OneVoice/ V15 campaign that Bird is acting as a consultant for is planning to recruit thousands of volunteers for house-to-house canvassing, according to the report.
“The goal is not to promote a specific candidate or party, but to put your ego aside for the greater good,” Nimrod Dweck, one of the founders of V15, told the newspaper. “We say ‘replace the government,’ it’s not directed at specific individuals. There have been many years of right-wing governments during which little happened, it’s time to change course and give people hope.”
OneVoice Israel has for over a decade attempted to engage Israelis and Palestinians outside of a political framework in an effort to lobby their leaders to pursue a two-state solution.
In response to Cruz’s letter, the OneVoice Movement said it received two grants from the State Department in the past year to help fund campaign in support of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but according to both OneVoice and the State Department, both grants ended before December 2014 and are not part of OneVoice’s current campaign.
“No payment was made to OneVoice after November of 2014,” State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said Thursday in response to a question at the State Department press briefing In announcing the new get-out-and-vote campaign on Tuesday, OneVoice Israel’s executive director Polly Bronstein said, “We believe that it’s critical that the majority of Israelis who are concerned about the numerous security and socioeconomic challenges we face have their voices heard in the next election. We need a prime minister and a government who will be responsive to the people.”