Republican lawmakers Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas joined Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York in firing a letter off Thursday to Secretary of State John Kerry. They demand answers regarding reports that a State Department-funded non-profit organization is bankrolling efforts to unseat a foreign leader.
Specifically, the reports allege that the U.S. non-profit OneVoice, which has received at least two U.S. State Department grants in the last year, is funding an Israeli grassroots effort to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s March election.
Cruz and Zeldin said in a joint statement Thursday:
“Has President Obama launched a political campaign against Prime Minister Netanyahu and his representatives?” Sen. Cruz asked. “This administration’s relentless harassment of Israel is utterly incomprehensible. The Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing the deadliest weapons on the planet, and there can be no doubt that their first target will be Israel, followed by the United States. This administration should be focusing its animosity on the very real enemies we face, not on our staunch allies.”
The Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz made its first report of OneVoice’s funding activities on Tuesday, as well as a five-man team of American campaign experts headed by Jeremy Bird, the Obama campaign’s national field director. That report was quickly picked up by both Israeli and U.S. media
Bird’s name wasn’t lost on social media:
Jeremy Bird, national field director for Obama’s 2012 campaign, now working for V15 running an effort to defeat Netanyahu in election.
— slone (@slone) January 27, 2015
Cruz and Zeldin’s statement continued:
“It is completely unacceptable to use U.S. tax dollars to influence the elections in Israel,” said Rep. Zeldin. “State Department grants should never be given to entities working to overthrow strong allies like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We have great allies around the world, but Israel is our strongest, and a beacon of freedom in a region filled with radical Islamic extremists and state sponsored terrorism. Today, I join with Sen. Ted Cruz in calling for a U.S. Department of State investigation into this important matter.”
News of the joint press release soon hit social media. Bloomberg Senate correspondent Kate Hunter tweeted:
— Kate Hunter (@Kate_HunterDC) January 29, 2015
The letter asked that Kerry clear up eight questions:
- How much funding has the U.S. Government provided to OneVoice, PeaceWorks Network Foundation, and any connected initiatives, projects or subsidiaries?
- Who approved providing such funds?
- What is the oversight and accounting process for how these funds are being spent?
- How often and on what dates has such funding been provided?
- What were the specific reasons and terms for providing funds, and how are these funds specifically being spent?
- Can the Department of State guarantee that none of these funds have been or will be used in the endeavor detailed above, namely the partnership with V15, or any similar effort to exert undue influence over the Israeli political process?
- Was there any knowledge from the State Department or other U.S. government officials of the partnership with V15 prior to providing funds to OneVoice?
- Does OneVoice’s work with V15 violate its 501(c)(3) status (or the status of the PeaceWorks Network Foundation) as a tax-exempt organization and should such status be revoked?
It sounds as though Cruz and Zeldin are trying to offset the influence of Chicago-style politics in Israel using a little common-sense Texas-style justice.
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