(JNS.org) A U.S. State Department-funded group is partnering with an Israeli grassroots political organization in an effort to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Jewish state’s upcoming March election, according to reports.
The Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday that OneVoice International—an activist organization founded in 2002 that seeks to “empower” Israelis and Palestinians to pressure elected officials to support a two-state solution—is teaming up with an Israeli grassroots group called V15, which recently hired a former Obama campaign strategist to persuade Israelis to vote against Netanyahu.
Haaretz reported that Jeremy Bird, a 36-year-old American political strategist who served as national field director for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, has joined V15 to support the organization’s grassroots efforts.
Bird told Haaretz that his strategy is to adapt his door-knocking campaign strategy for Israel in order to “speak with enough people here to replace the government.”
V15 is allegedly behind the growing “Anyone but Bibi” campaign (referring to Netanyahu’s nickname) in Israel. Yet one of the organizers of V15, Nimrod Dweck, said his group’s goal was not to endorse any specific candidate, but rather to “put your ego aside for the greater good.”
Christina Taler, a spokesperson for OneVoice, told the Washington Free Beacon that her group is working with V15 to focus on voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns, and is not engaged in partisan activities.
“We’ve formed a partnership with [V15], but it’s important to know we’re absolutely nonpartisan,” Taler said. “Our biggest emphasis and focus right now is just getting people out to vote.”
Taler also denied that any State Department funding is going towards “any of the activities we’re doing right now whatsoever,” and said the funds were used last spring to build support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations spearheaded by Secretary of State John Kerry.
The White House recently said that President Barack Obama would not meet with Netanyahu when the latter travels to the U.S. in March, citing the trip's close proximity to Israel's March 17 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," said Morton A. Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America.
The Obama administration has also opposed Netanyahu's plans to address Congress on March 3 regarding Iran and radical Islam, claiming that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) breached "protocol" by inviting Netanyahu without consulting the president.
"President Obama had no problem with British Prime Minister David Cameron recently addressing Congress to make the case he favors opposing sanctions legislation," Klein said. And U.S. presidents have a long tradition of meeting Israeli prime ministers who are going to the polls—Bill Clinton meet with Shimon Peres just prior to Israeli elections in 1996; he also met with Ehud Barak prior to Israeli elections in 2001. Obama not meeting Netanyahu has nothing to do with the proximity to Israel's elections and everything to do with his opposition to Netanyahu making the case for sanctions on Iran."
In his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, Obama vowed to veto new Iran sanctions legislation.