The Biden administration is signaling its desire to stop any potential turn to the right by Israel should former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu return to power and specified one possible Netanyahu ally as "a huge problem for us."
According to Israel Hayom, a Biden official said that there is concern that Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the right-wing party Otzma Yehudit and a staunch conservative, could be a potential minister in a Netanyahu government.
"It would be a huge problem for us. This is not someone we want to see as part of the government. Netanyahu is very smart and experienced and understands the consequences of such a development. This has not been discussed with him yet, because — as mentioned — we are at an early stage. But there is no doubt that he understands," the official said.
Following the report, Otzma Yehudit sharply criticized current Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and implied that he had invited the U.S. to attempt to impose its will on Israeli politics, stating, "It appears that there's no limit to Foreign Minister Lapid's cynical exploitation of his position, now that we're seeing Lapid deciding to use lying briefings to drag the American administration into a place where they are intervening in the elections process in Israel.
"Lapid is destroying Israel's foreign relations and is giving up Israeli sovereignty in order to serve his own political ends."
The statement by the Biden official seemed to revisit accusations that the Obama administration, in which Biden was the vice president, had attempted to oust Netanyahu by meddling in the Israeli elections, when it indirectly supported the group OneVoice in 2015.
According to a report from the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the U.S. State Department gave grants of $349,276 to OneVoice's Israeli and Palestinian branches to use over a 14-month period; after that period ended, another group, V15, used the infrastructure that was developed with those funds to urge Netanyahu's ouster.
"In service of V15, OneVoice deployed its social media platform, which more than doubled during the State Department grant period; used its database of voter contact information, including email addresses ... and enlisted its network of trained activists, many of whom were recruited or trained under the grant, to support and recruit for V15," the report read.
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