New Israel Fund and V15 Group Fire Back at Likud

Police complaint, threat of lawsuit come in response to ‘inciteful’ claim of illegal activities.

Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

The V15 organization has filed a police complaint against Likud for incitement, following the ruling party’s accusations that the group is engaging in illegal activities in the election campaign.

The New Israel Fund has also demanded that Likud officials retract their claims that it is funding V15, a group that urges voters to oust the government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer, David Shimron, apologized at a press conference for linking V15 with the New Israel Fund.

V15’s complaint involves a portion of a film titled “The NGO affair 2015,” distributed by Likud, which features a keffiyeh-clad illustration making the V for victory sign next to the number 15 in blood-red. “The Likud film proves that it has turned into a branch of the organization Lehava,” V15 said, referring to an extreme right-wing group. “It turns out that behind Netanyahu is a group that is knowingly inciting against young Israelis who serve in the army, do reserve duty, pay taxes and work for the future of Israel. This incitement does not scare us nor deter us from the road to victory,” the group said.

In a warning letter to Shimron, Likud legal adviser Avi Halevi and the head of the party’s PR campaign, Nir Hefetz, the New Israel Fund wrote earlier this week that the Likud’s claims of the fund’s involvement in V15, and its claims that the New Israel Fund was financing the pro-peace organizations OneVoice and Molad – Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy, were “lies.”

“The New Israel Fund is not and has never been involved, either directly or indirectly, in funding the campaign known as V15. Moreover, it has not financially supported OneVoice for years, and clearly has no connection, even indirectly, of any kind, with this organization today,” the letter stated.

It continued that the New Israel Fund’s involvement with Molad was limited to certain activities that did not extend to Molad’s “Project 61” – whose name refers to the 61 Knesset members needed to form a coalition – as Likud claimed.

“This is a matter of serious and damaging slander, because the New Israel Fund distances itself from any involvement in the elections, and obviously from support for one party or another. The New Israel Fund acts transparently and lawfully, and details of the support it gives are made public. Especially shocking is the fact that these irresponsible statements were made not be some marginal element, but by the authorized representatives of a key party, the ruling party. Any reiteration of these statements will be tainted by extreme malice aforethought, and the New Israel Fund will not accept the continued sullying of its name and involving it in the elections while doing damage to its public status,” the letter stated.

Shimron’s office said in response: “If it was stated by him [Shimron] that the organization V15 is funded by the New Israel Fund, this was said mistakenly and attorney Shimron apologizes.”

Shimron said he had based his statement on the fact that New Israel Fund’s support for Molad is noted on its official website.

Meanwhile, the leader of Habayit Hayehudi, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, together with Likud MKs Tzachi Hanegbi, Tzipi Hotovely and Zeev Elkin announced that they would not attend next month’s Israel Democracy Conference, sponsored by Haaretz, because it is partly funded by the New Israel Fund.

Bennett, who was to have spoken at the conference, posted on his Twitter account: “If the involvement of the fund is canceled, I will be glad to come.”

Fellow party MKs Ayelet Shaked and Yinon Magal are slated to take part.

Following Hanegbi, Hotovely and Elkin’s cancellation, Likud stated: “Likud, as a national ideological party, will not cooperate with bodies that unceasingly defame Israel.”

The Israel Democracy Conference, to be held on February 17 at the Tel Aviv Port, will be attended by President Reuven Rivlin, MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp), Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri and Meretz chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On.

During Rivlin’s visit this week to the Jewish community in Hebron, he said leftist activists had urged him not to go to Hebron but he did not accede, as he would not submit to right-wing pressures not to attend the conference.