The US State Department says that it did not intentionally fund an organization dedicated to ousting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during the last election campaign.
"I'm not going to go into details, but to our understanding the report showed there is no proof that the OneVoice organization used money to influence the Israeli election," said a spokesperson for the State Department.
He referred to a report compiled by a bipartisan Senate investigatory committee on the issue. The committee found that the State Department gave about $350,000 of US taxpayers' money to OneVoice, which then used the fruits of the resources for the V15 campaign, which was dedicated to electing anyone except Netanyahu.
The funding was originally intended to promote efforts to renew negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state. OneVoice used the money to build its infrastructure, enlist activists and train its members in grassroots activism. Shortly after its connection with the US ended, the group used the same resources to attack Netanyahu's campaign.
OneVoice has been in Congress's sights for the past two years, after it was accused of funneling money to domestic Israeli political organizations. According to US officials, such conduct by an NGO like OneVoice, which is registered in the US, may violate tax laws.
The investigation revealed that the organization intentionally transferred the money to an group that worked against Netanyahu. Suspiciously, all of the correspondence indicating the relationship between the government and V15 was deleted. In addition, the committee report strongly criticized the fact that the US government did not keep track of where its money ultimately ended up.
The US is treating the issue of the deleted correspondence as very serious, particularly as the State Department has been in hot water over the handling of e-mails recently.
Michael Ratney, the former US Consul General in Jerusalem, admitted to the committee that he deleted the correspondence with OneVoice. Afterwards, the committee wrote that the State Department did not disclose all of the relevant documents and correspondence, which raised suspicion. Deleting e-mails is considered a violation of federal law, which requires all such e-mails to be archived.
Senior State Department officials also testified, saying that, had they known of OneVoice's intentions, they would have stopped the flow of money. However, they only heard about the issue after the fact.
The report's authors, though, did not have much faith in the officials. They stated that OneVoice's members disclosed their plans and put V15 in touch with several State Department officials before the election. Yet the officials did nothing. The report claims that deleting the e-mails prevented them from searching out the truth.
Jerusalem has not officially responded to the report, though officials say it proves the claims of US interference that were raised at the time of the elections, and that the Senate document speaks for itself.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said, "It is a very serious issue for a government to interfere in another country's election. In my opinion, it is one of the most serious issues. I passed the Transparency Law this week, and this demonstrates how important it is. Other countries don't respect Israel's sovereignty and sometimes interfere in internal affairs. This must stop."