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Israeli justice minister claims US aiding anti-government protests in Israel

Levin’s comments were denied by an unnamed US State Department official

Justice Minister Yariv Levin at a rally in support of the government's planned judicial overhaul, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, Apr. 27, 2023. (Photo: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

In a video leaked to Israel's Walla! News, Justice Minister Yariv Levin accused the U.S. Biden administration of interfering with Israel’s democracy by aiding anti-government protests. 

The video was recorded during a meeting at the home of the ultra-orthodox strategist Yossi Rosenbaum, with other religious activists present.

In the video, Levin can be heard claiming the Biden administration “is working in cooperation with them [the protest movement] on this matter.” 

“There is no doubt that we are at a truly unimaginable disadvantage. They hold the court, the ombudsman, all the heads of the economic system, the American administration which is working in cooperation with them on this matter, as you see in the things said by the people in the administration there,” Levin said regarding the hindrances to passing the judicial reforms.

Levin emphasized that he doesn't believe anyone is behind their actions, but "they are doing it from their own perception of truth.” 

“The other side has an incredible arsenal of tools, and its power was revealed in this event as it has never been revealed. There is funding in unimaginable amounts,” he remarked. 

He also blamed the Israeli media saying, “On top of this [the tools of the opposition], add total control of the media: Yisrael Hayom, Yedioth Ahronoth, Haaretz, internet sites: Ynet, Walla, the Marker, whatever you don’t want.” 

Levin’s comments were denied by an unnamed U.S. State Department official, who said the comments are "absolutely and clearly false." 

Levin could be referring to State Department funding for the Movement for Quality Government (MQG). Public Israeli records show the organization has received over $38 thousand in funding from the U.S. State Department. 

In fact, Levin previously called out the group for its “effort to oust the prime minister in contravention of the law, while trampling on the democratic election.” 

While the State Department’s support was earmarked for “democracy education,” the MQG has funded several aspects of the protest movement. 

Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said, "Clearly, if a foreign government had funded a similar NGO operating in the U.S., the Biden administration would have taken immediate action.” 

“This case, which is not unique," Steinberg continued, "highlights the lack of due diligence in government support for NGOs and the ease with which this funding can be used for political manipulation." 

MQG has worked alongside a U.S.-based organization called New Israel Fund. 

New Israel Fund (NIF), is a group that promotes democracy, equality and minority rights in Israel. They have traditionally supported left-wing political ideas, and have funded BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) groups and anti-Zionist groups. 

In late March, conservative Israeli news site, Now 14, found that the NIF had dispersed about 2 million shekels (about $560,000 at the time) to various groups in the protest movement. NIF receives funds from outside of Israel, and as a non-profit, is not required to list its donors. As a result, it is not clear if the U.S. government has given any funds to NIF. 

A statement on NIF’s website said the organization created a campaign whose "goal is to use articles and position papers to encourage the international community to take negative and positive incentives to influence government moves." 

This would not be the first time a Democratic administration worked against Netanyahu. 

In 2016, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations disclosed that the Obama administration provided U.S. taxpayer dollars to the OneVoice Movement, which ran a political-smear campaign against Netanyahu. 

OneVoice Movement had received $465,000 in U.S. grants through 2014. The Senate investigation found that OneVoice redirected State Department funds to anti-Netanyahu political efforts. It also found that U.S. officials erased emails with information about the administration’s relationship to the non-profit group once the anti-Netanyahu efforts became public. 

In March, Yair Netanyahu, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, caused a stir by claiming the U.S. government is funding “anti-Netanyahu protests.” He shared an article from Breitbart alleging that the U.S. government is funding efforts against the Israeli prime minister. That article also focused on the Movement for Quality Government’s role in the protests. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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