JERUSALEM, Israel — Israeli voters will choose their next government and prime minister in several weeks. This election campaign, however, is getting unusual attention and some say outside interference from the United States.
On Thursday evening, V15, which stands for Victory 15, opened another center in Israel, one of around 10 throughout the country. It’s a growing movement thanks to outside money and American political know-how. The goal: to influence Israel’s upcoming election.
With the help of OneVoice, V15 has opened up volunteer centers throughout the country. This latest one is in the heart of Jerusalem. The group’s mission is to unseat Netanyahu.
“Our whole purpose is to go door by door and to call supporters and to call voters and to pledge people not to vote for Netanyahu,” V15 co-founder Itamar Wizeman told CBN News.
After helping to start V15, Wizeman picked a willing supporter in OneVoice, a U.S.-based organization.
“We were approached by OneVoice to give us a donation and we were so thrilled that successful businessmen want to invest in Israel’s future,” Wizeman explained.
OneVoice also provided the services of Jeremy Bird, a field director in both of President Barack Obama’s winning White House runs.
“I specifically met with Jeremy,” Wizeman continued. “He helped us try to think outside the box, how we can organize people here.”
Wizeman credits Bird with bringing along his successful U.S. campaign strategies to Israel.
“He gave us intellectual resources on how to organize people. That what should be the structure of volunteers. A concept of having a regional field director and a field organizer. We want to actually bring the amazing concepts in the U.S. that has worked for a lot of parties. He’s doing wonderful work with us,” he said.
Prof. Eitan Gilboa is director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University.
“I think this is a very serious matter. A non-profit, especially established with foreign money, especially American money, to intervene in the elections,” Gilboa told CBN News.
“V15 argues that they are not affiliated in any way with a particular party and that they only represent an idea. Well, what is the idea? The idea is…to remove the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, from power,” he said.
Current Israeli law prohibits large contributions to political parties from foreign sources.
“This is like a trick, a maneuver to circumvent Israeli election law, which I consider to be misleading the Israeli electorate,” Gilboa concluded.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., are complaining about OneVoice’s involvement to the State Department because it has partnered with and given grants to the organization.
“There appears to be a danger that U.S. taxpayer funds are being used directly to shape the outcome of the upcoming Israeli election — and specifically the campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the letter states.
The State Department denied any taxpayer money given to OneVoice went to V15.
Israel’s Likud Party has also filed a complaint against V15 to the Israeli Supreme Court. V15 argues the Likud also uses foreign money and consultants for its campaigns. Gilboa says there’s a difference.
“Those non-profits operating on the right, they get only private money and they operate around the year. V15, affiliated with the left, has been established just and primarily for the elections and we don’t know much about their sources of funding. It’s not the same thing,” he said.
Current polls show a close race and Israelis hope the outcome won’t be engineered by foreign influence, especially from its closest ally.
Originally published on CBN News