How Taxpayer Funds Are Flowing to a Group Bankrolling Anti-Netanyahu Protests

The U.S. government has been funneling taxpayer money to the left-wing group bankrolling protests against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Israeli funding documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

The documents indicate that, since 2020, Foggy Bottom has sent over $38,000 to the Movement for Quality Government (MQG), the Israeli nonprofit stoking nationwide anti-Netanyahu protests that have seen protesters clash with police and target Netanyahu’s family members. MQG is seeking to takedown Netanyahu’s government over his support for major reforms to the Israeli supreme court that would significantly limit its power. The organization petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court earlier this year to oust Netanyahu, claiming he is unfit for office due to ongoing investigations into allegations of political corruption and bribery.

The State Department, which confirmed the funding, calls the group a nonpartisan organization, but its work opposing Netanyahu raises questions about how the group was able to obtain U.S. funding. The United States typically avoids funding foreign partisan groups to avoid claims of political meddling. Even before MQG emerged as the leading force behind the current wave of anti-Netanyahu protests, it made a name for itself as a leading critic of the Israeli right, which has long seen Netanyahu as its leader. Given the Biden administration’s chilly diplomatic relationship with Netanyahu—which includes repeated criticism of Israeli settlement construction and the decision to launch an unprecedented FBI probe into Israel’s anti-terrorism operations—the U.S. funding to MQG has come under new scrutiny.

“The State Department should never fund foreign partisan organizations in allied democracies,” Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon. “If the shoe was on the other foot, the Biden administration would accuse Israel of interfering in our elections. Congress should absolutely review the State Department’s potential funding of partisan politics in Israel.”

The State Department downplayed its funding for MQG and would not answer questions about whether U.S. funds could have been diverted to the organization’s anti-Netanyahu activities.

“The State Department has provided small grants to the Movement for Quality Government, including a grant signed in 2020 during the previous administration and continued under the Biden administration that focused on teaching civic education and supporting good governance,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon. The last tranche of funding was awarded in September 2022. The money was meant to be used for democracy training programs in the Israeli school system.

The State Department described MQG as “a respected, independent, non-partisan, grassroots non-governmental organization committed to promoting values of democracy, transparency, good governance, and civic participation.”

The United States provided funding to the group beginning in 2020, near the end of the Trump administration. One former senior U.S. official familiar with the matter said the grant was likely approved by career State Department officials and that the small amount of money likely went unnoticed by Trump administration political appointees who could have blocked it.

 The State Department typically allows its grantees to self-report how the money is used, meaning there are few guardrails in place to prevent it from being spent on other causes, according to Gerald Steinberg, founder of NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that monitors these issues. “Few if any funders even attempt to monitor the actual use of grants,” he said.

Steinberg, who has closely followed MQG’s activities, noted that “if a foreign government had funded a similar NGO operating in the United States, the Biden administration would have taken immediate action.”

Grant information shows that MQG received grants of around $10,000 to $15,000 dollars in 2020, 2021, and 2022. In each of those years, the State Department was listed as the group’s sole foreign donor.

The majority of MQG’s funding comes from its membership dues and from donations made by charitable organizations. The group says it “is not willing, by principle, to receive any assistance from the governmental system,” but does not include a similar prohibition on foreign government funding.

MQG did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment about how the U.S. funds were used.

Israeli political observers also have raised concerns about whether the U.S. funding is helping to fuel opposition to Netanyahu’s government.

“The Movement for Quality Government has worked for decades to subvert Israeli democracy,” Caroline Glick, an Israel-based political pundit who first raised questions about State Department funding for the group in a column last month, told the Free Beacon. “It is a slap in the face of the Israeli public and an expression of contempt for Israeli democracy that the State Department is funding this radical group.”

The State Department has come under fire in the past for funding foreign groups opposed to Netanyahu.

During the Obama administration, the State Department was caught deleting emails that showed it funded the OneVoice Movement, a liberal group that was waging an anti-Netanyahu smear campaign at the time.

The Biden administration also has come under fire for pushing an anti-Israel agenda through the Justice Department, which announced last year that it is conducting an unprecedented FBI investigation into Israel’s accidental shooting of a Palestinian-American reporter.

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