In advance of U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in September, the U.S. government, via USAID, helped finance a $250,000 ad campaign run by an NGO known as the Geneva Initiative. The campaign includes billboards, newspaper ads, and video clips of various Palestinian officials stressing the current window of opportunity to reach a peace deal. A Jerusalem Post article indicated that USAID was funding a parallel campaign in the Palestinian Authority. (According to media reports, both Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayad did not agree to participate in the campaign.)
According to a USAID official, the funding for the campaign came from one of several conflict resolution grants that USAID distributes. But it was unclear whether the decision to support this particular project was made locally or in the Washington, D.C. offices, and whether USAID had ever sponsored a similar political advertisement campaign in another democratic society.
The original version of the Geneva Initiative press release announcing the campaign stated that “The campaign is supported with the generous support of the American people through USAID,” and featured the USAID logo. The statement and logo were subsequently removed. In correspondence with NGO Monitor, Geneva Initiative General Director Gadi Baltiansky declined to explain this development. (Click here to read Baltiansky’s letter.)
The USAID funding for the Geneva Initiative campaign is another example of foreign governments using Israeli political NGOs as part of efforts to manipulate Israeli democracy.
(Note: NGO Monitor requested information from USAID on this project, but did not receive a response at publication time. Click here to read NGO Monitor’s request.)