Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has reportedly recorded messages in advance of Tuesday’s elections warning of high voter turnout in “left-wing strongholds” and among Arab Israelis. A Likud spokesman denied that the party was responsible for the messages.
According to a report Monday in the Haaretz daily, the messages are to be sent to hundreds of thousands of Israelis at 4:30 p.m. on election day, as part of Likud’s efforts to boost right-wing voter turnout.
“From examinations we’re doing in real time, there is a significantly low voter turnout in your area. You must leave your house now. You can’t be complacent,” one of the messages reportedly says.
In another recording obtained by Haaretz, Likud’s Yisrael Gantz, the head of the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank, can be heard warning of “the destruction of the Zionist effort” and that settlement construction will be halted if Netanyahu does not form the next government.
“According to figures we have, voting in the Arab community is very high and also in left-wing strongholds that want to push out the right-wing government,” Gantz says.
“We could wake up to a left-wing government that is likely to divide Jerusalem and hand over regions of the country to the enemy,” he adds, before imploring voters to back right-wing parties.
Likud denied the report, saying only that it was “false.”
In past election campaigns, Netanyahu has frequently warned of low voting levels among right-wingers and high turnout among Arab and left-wing voters, a tactic seen as aimed at shoring up support for Likud.
On election day in 2015, Netanyahu released a video saying Arab voters were going in “droves” to voting stations and that left-wing NGOs were busing them there. He later apologized for the remarks.
Ahead of the September 17 elections, Likud unsuccessfully pushed for legislation to allow political parties to bring recording devices into polling places, which it argued was necessary to prevent allegedly rampant fraud among Arab Israelis.
Netanyahu charged that his political rivals who opposed the bill did so because they wanted to “steal the election.” The premier’s claim has not been substantiated by evidence and the few cases of voter fraud that have been reported largely benefited Likud and Shas, a key ally of the ruling party.
Critics said the cameras were designed to intimidate Arab voters.