- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A campaign organization guided by a top Obama political strategist and working to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has filed a police complaint alleging “incitement” against his ruling Likud party.

The Israeli press reported that the complaint filed by the anti-Netanyahu group Victory 2015, or V15, whose operatives include Obama 2012 national field director Jeremy Bird, stems from an anti-V15 film entitled, “The NGO affair 2015.”

In its complaint, V15 officials said the film, distributed by Likud, shows a “keffiyeh-clad illustration making the V for victory sign next to the number 15 in blood-red,” said the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in a Wednesday article.

The volley follows a Likud press conference Sunday announcing that the party has filed a campaign-finance complaint against V15 accusing the group of breaking Israeli campaign-finance laws by accepting illegal contributions from foreign donors.

The dueling complaints arrive amid increased attention to the overlap between the Obama camp and efforts to unseat Mr. Netanyahu in the March 17 Knesset election. Mr. Bird, who worked on field operations for President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, brought with him a team of four consultants, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

At the same time, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu has never been worse. In Washington, speculation is rife that some Democrats may skip a March 3 speech by Mr. Netanyahu before a joint session of Congress in a show of support for Mr. Obama, who has declined to meet with the Israeli leader during his visit.

A Wednesday report in Politico said that “dozens” of Democrats are privately threatening to boycott the conservative Israeli leader’s appearance. Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the president of the Senate, has yet to say whether he will attend the address.

Several Democrats met Wednesday with Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, asking him to either postpone the speech until after the March 17 Knesset elections or hold it somewhere other than Congress.

Liberal pundits have criticized House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite Mr. Netanyahu without first informing the White House, while warning that the speech is shaping up to be a political blunder that could hurt the Israeli leader’s quest for tougher U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“This relationship should never be owned in the United States by one party, nor should it ever become a political football between Republicans and Democrats,” said a Wednesday op-ed in Haaretz by former Democratic Rep. Mel Levine and Israeli diplomat Oden Eran. “Furthermore, both the United States and Israel should refrain from interfering in the domestic politics of one another.”

But conservatives argue that the speech may instead backfire on Democrats by reinforcing concerns among U.S. voters that the party has become increasingly anti-Israel.

Obama’s petulance, the Republican’s guile, and Netanyahu’s boldness have painted the Democratic Party’s representatives into a corner in which they are forced to choose between the leader of their party and the popular leader of Israel,” said a Wednesday post by Noah Rothman on HotAir. “All the while, Netanyahu and his party are surging in polls of Israeli voters.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli election has been marked by charges of outside influence. An “independent grassroots movement” working to oust Mr. Netanyahu, V15 is financed by the liberal OneVoice, which received two grants from the State Department in the last year, according to a Jan. 27 report in the Washington Free Beacon.

In an interview Tuesday with the Israeli online magazine ynetnews, V15 founders Itamar Weizman and Nimrod Dweck said they hired Mr. Bird’s Washington-based 270 Strategies at the suggestion of OneVoice because they wanted “to hire Obama’s trump card” in order to run a professional operation.

“The people at OneVoice said to us: ‘You’re very cute, but to get an operation like this off the ground, you need the help of people who’ve already done it,” Mr. Dweck said.

“That’s how we hooked up with 270 Strategies, which conducts campaigns worldwide and helps grassroots organizations build themselves up. The company’s CEO is Jeremy Bird, who worked three years ago with the Obama campaign headquarters, in the same way Netanyahu in the past hired consultants who worked with American presidents,” he said. “The whole world wants to hire Obama’s trump card, and OneVoice worked with him a year and a half ago, so they suggested we do too.”

The magazine noted that the involvement of Mr. Bird has given “rise to claims by right-wing groups that ‘Barack Obama is helping to topple the Netanyahu government.’ Again, Weizman and Dweck deny the charges.”

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