The head of the Central Elections Committee on Sunday asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and acting Israel Police chief Motti Cohen to open a criminal investigation into alleged election fraud, citing several incidents of suspected irregularities.
The committee chairman, Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, said in a letter that his request was the result of evidence provided to him by Likud MK David Bitan, a staunch loyalist of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He detailed two cases of ballot boxes where fraud is suspected. One of them, in the Arab Israeli town of Kisra-Sumei in the Western Galilee, had 97 percent of eligible voters turn up — far above the national turnout of 67.9%.
Additionally, all the results from that ballot box were in round numbers, a combination that Melcer said “raises questions and necessitates an investigation.”
In another voting station in the northern city of Afula, Melcer said, the numbers listed in the protocol were significantly different from the record on the results sheet and from the ballots. “That requires an investigation to find whether the polling station’s committee members acted against their orders,” Melcer wrote.
He said he wasn’t authorized to disqualify the results in those and other voting stations. He asked to receive an update within 30 days as to what action had been taken.
On election day on April 9, a reported 1,200 Likud activists arrived with hidden cameras in voting booths in Arab towns. Likud has admitted it was behind the scheme, which party officials said was designed to counter alleged voter fraud in high-risk areas.
Melcer said in his letter that police should gather all the evidence received using the cameras — under certain, unspecified restrictions — and decide whether the footage and recordings require further action. According to Channel 12 news, the Likud alleges its cameras and other evidence show voting fraud in 115 polling stations.
Melcer, however, has not responded to calls by politicians and activists to investigate Likud for placing the hidden cameras at the polling booths.
Incoming Hadash-Ta’al MK Aida Touma-Sliman last week sent a letter to Mandelblit, demanding he facilitate the collection by law enforcement agencies of the cameras and any recorded material, accusing Melcer of issuing a “problematic” directive on election day that the cameras be returned to the Likud activists, provided that they be handed over to the police if a complaint was filed.
Touma-Sliman said she believes any delay in the collection of the cameras and the material they recorded continues the privacy violation they posed and pollutes vital evidence.
Touma-Sliman wants the camera collection to take place in parallel with an investigation by Mandelblit into the Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s involvement in their placement in the polling centers, saying they were an attempt to undermine “the legitimacy” of the Arab community’s citizenship.
On Thursday, Meretz MK Michal Rozin also said she had sent an urgent letter to Mandelblit urging him to investigate Likud’s placement of the cameras.
“Likud tried to deter voters in the Arab community from exercising their democratic right, in a manner that could constitute a threat,” she wrote on Twitter.
Kaizler Inbar, an Israeli public relations firm, said last week that it had worked closely with Likud to equip election observers at polling stations in Arab towns with cameras, and contended with pride that these were responsible for low Arab voter turnout.
Kaizler Inbar directly linked the campaign to the low voter turnout this election among Arab Israelis, bragging it was “the lowest that was seen in recent years!”
Fifty-two percent of eligible Arab Israelis cast ballots in the elections, Yousef Makladeh, an Arab Israeli statistician estimated. In the elections in 2013 and 2015, some 54% and 63.7%, of Arab Israelis, respectively, voted, according to estimates calculated after those elections.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.