Likud on Sunday revealed details of what it calls “the left-wing NGOs affair of 2015 – the V15 affair,” at a press conference in Tel Aviv. Likud accuses the V15 (“Victory 2015”) organization of violating Israeli campaign finance laws in an effort to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by accepting illegal campaign contributions from unnamed foreign donors, and petitioned the Central Elections Committee last Wednesday for an order barring campaigning by the V15 group.
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V15 is partnering with the pro-peace organization OneVoice. Its goal is to recruit thousands of volunteers who will go door to door before the election to persuade as many as one million people to vote to change the government.
Haaretz reported last week on the organization’s efforts to replace the Likud-led government. To this end, V15 has hired Jeremy Bird, the national field director of United States President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, to organize its efforts.
The Likud petition argued that V15 – which it termed an “extreme left-wing organization” – was indirectly campaigning on behalf of Likud’s rivals, Zionist Camp and Meretz, thereby circumventing campaign-finance restrictions imposed by law. Specifically, the petition said, the organization “is making criminal use of anonymous foreign funding in extremely large amounts.”
The petition also demanded that V15 reveal its funding sources.
The press conference featured Likud MKs Miri Regev and Yariv Levin, as well as attorney David Shimron, a close associate of Netanyahu. The party claims the Labor Party and left “are trying to buy the government ... Millions of dollars whose source is left wingers overseas are now being poured into funding the campaign to bring down Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud.”
“Two candidates for the Knesset are among the heads of OneVoice – Yoel Hasson and Danny Atar,” said Shimron at the press conference. “Both of them are candidates of the Zionist Camp for the Knesset. OneVoice is financing V15. There is a clear political affiliation here. We can see a clear criminal act whose purpose is to buy the election with money that may not be used.”
Likud has called V15 an illegal attempt by the Labor Party and the left to buy their way into government. Likud accused leftist groups of operating thanks to funds funneled from Europe, the U.S. and the New Israel Fund.
According to Likud, international elements interested in upending Netanyahu’s government are involved with leftist groups such as OneVoice and Molad, and these activities violate the law which forbids foreign donations to Israeli political parties. “The facts to which we’ve been exposed in recent days should raise a red flag for anyone who cares about respecting the rules of the democratic game, and regarding the true allegiance of the anti-Zionist camp led by Bougie and Tzipi [Herzog and Livni].”
The petition cited the Haaretz report of Bird’s hiring to bolster its argument, writing that “hiring services of this sort costs a fortune. We’re talking about foreign funding on an enormous scale, in violation of the Party Funding Law.”
It also charged that some of V15’s members have ties with specific parties.
The Zionist Camp said in response: “Bibi and the extreme right are panicking. Their fear of the opposition benches waiting for them after the election is driving them crazy. It is unnecessary to note that the claims of the extreme right are false and baseless, and their sole goal is to divert the discussion from Netanyahu’s failures over the past six years on matters of housing, cost of living and defense.”
In response to the petition, V15 said: “Since Likud’s campaign staff has accepted the fact that Netanyahu has lost the field and the street, the party’s lawyers are trying to stop the energy and buzz around Victory 2015. We are bringing in innovative work plans learned from successful campaigns overseas. Obama’s ‘recruitment’ to the campaign exists only in the fevered brains of right-wingers and Likud.
“The Likud’s panic and paranoia from the right’s loss of the street to the V15 field operatives is not a reason for fantastic delusions such as a connection and cooperation with one of the parties or the American administration. We will continue to win and they will continue to whine,” said V15.