A group headed by a key Obama campaign organizer touched down in Tel Aviv last week, and began participating in Israeli elections, using funds whose sources the organization would not disclose.  

The organization’s name is V15, which stands for Victory 2015. It is headed by Jeremy Bird, the national field director for President Obama’s 2012 campaign. The group plans to canvass one million Israeli households door-to-door in the run-up to parliamentary elections that are now underway, and plans to campaign in opposition to Likud, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political party. Such an operation, involving the hiring of thousands of activists, promises to be expensive. V15, however, refuses to disclose the source of its funding. 

The use of anonymous foreign funding in undisclosed amounts to influence an election would violate Israeli campaign finance laws.  

Likud cried foul, and submitted a petition to the Israeli Central Elections Committee, seeking to bar campaigning by V15. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on V15’s campaign activities.  

This attempt by an organization closely tied to one head of state to participate directly in the internal elections of another democratic nation, in order to drive from power another head of state, seems nearly unparalleled, and one wonders how the White House could imagine they would get away with it. 

In the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns in America, it is worth remembering, Senator and later President Obama authorized his campaign to disable the website software that would have tracked the origin of bank transfers into his campaign.  

The news media declined to criticize or even closely cover this practice, and even today most Americans probably are not aware of it. From President Obama’s perspective, getting away with this twice in his own country may have suggested that he had reasonably good odds of circumventing election laws in a foreign country as well.

He guessed wrong. Enforcement of election laws is apparently more rigorous in Israel than in the U.S., as the Central Election Committee granted Likud’s petition and barred V15 from participating in the election.  

President Obama, of course, has protested Prime Minister Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation by the U.S. House of Representatives to speak before Congress. Obama contends that the invitation and acceptance did not follow regular protocol. Coming from an administration that was simultaneously participating, illegally, in the Israeli elections, this seems a bit shameless. 

Meanwhile, Israeli public opinion in the wake of the revelations concerning V15 has shifted. Likud was behind in the polls last week, but is now leading. No country likes to see outsiders participating in its national elections, and Israel is no exception. 





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