Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is said to have warned party officials that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s crusade to deploy surveillance cameras in polling stations to counter alleged voter fraud is aimed at priming the public to reject the outcome of upcoming elections if he loses.
“Netanyahu is preparing the ground to not accept or honor the results of the election,” Gantz told senior figures in his party in private conversations, the Ynet website reported Friday.
He “is trying to delegitimize an important democratic process,” Gantz said. “This is a dangerous move.”
Gantz also said on Thursday that Netanyahu was preparing the ground for a claim that “they’ve stolen the elections” if he loses on September 17. Speaking at a Channel 12 conference, Gantz said Netanyahu was undermining the legal hierarchies he should be protecting as prime minister. Regarding cameras in polling booths, Gantz said his party would respect the decision of election chief, Justice Hanan Melcer, who has banned individual party observers from using them.
The prime minister and the Likud Party he leads have claimed in recent days that voter fraud — particularly among the Arab minority — stole the April elections from Netanyahu.
On Friday the prime minister claimed that “only someone who wants to steal the election would oppose the placement of cameras.”
Speaking to reporters before departing from London to Israel, the premier said “It is not a coincidence that Benny Gantz and [Blue and White’s Yair] Lapid oppose cameras, because they want the election to be stolen.”
Responding to Netanyahu, Blue and White MK Yoaz Hendel tweeted: “The truth must be said: Netanyahu doesn’t want election oversight but chaos.” He said Likud was welcome to join Blue and White’s proposed legislation for increased oversight by election officials but not by “gangs or parties.”
Likud asserted this week that without fraudulent votes, one of the country’s Arab parties, Ra’am-Balad, would not have passed the minimum threshold of 3.25 percent of the vote for entry into the Knesset, equivalent to four seats in parliament. It is now warning the same will happen again if cameras at polling stations are not permitted.
The party’s claims are dubious and have not been substantiated by evidence. A senior Likud official speaking to the Haaretz newspaper anonymously said the claims of a stolen election were “merely speculation. This isn’t a scenario anyone thinks has much basis.”
Likud was unable to form a ruling majority in negotiations after the last election, being only able to muster a total of 60 seats with coalition partners, one short of the majority it needed in the 120-seat Knesset. Netanyahu then dissolved parliament and called fresh elections.
Netanyahu has vowed to pass legislation that would allow poll watchers from competing political parties to bring cameras into polling stations during the coming September 17 elections, despite strong opposition from the attorney general and the Central Elections Committee, the official body charged with running the elections.
During his brief visit to London on Thursday, Netanyahu commented on the subject telling reporters: “The problem of [voting] fraud and theft of the elections is real. We will not allow the coming elections to be stolen and the best thing is to install cameras.”
Netanyahu said that there is widespread use of cameras in society yet “all of a sudden the one place where it is prevented is in the voting hall.”
“It will be absurd if we don’t win because the elections are stolen in voting booths. That is unacceptable to us.”
Official probes into claims of voting fraud have shown the phenomenon to be minor.
Supporters of the so-called Camera Bill plan to advance it on Sunday in an expedited procedure meant to enable its passage before election day. The bill was drafted by Justice Minister Amir Ohana and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.
The legislation was advanced after the Central Elections Committee late last month banned political parties from arming polling station representatives with cameras during the upcoming elections, saying the law did not enable such practices.
But passage of the bill in time to enact it on September 17 is viewed as unlikely by commentators. And even if it passes, the government will likely find it difficult to defend a law that the attorney general vehemently opposes if and when petitions are filed against it at the High Court of Justice.
Blue and White plans to oppose the Camera Bill and two of its lawmakers are preparing a counter bill which will be voted on by the Knesset alongside the Likud bill, Ynet reported.
The bill by MKs Yoaz Hendel and Chili Tropper will focus on how cameras can be deployed, stipulating that their use can only be approved by the Central Elections Committee and that no other body will be permitted to use cameras except the Central Elections Committee and its representatives.
On Thursday Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit doubled down on his opposition to the bill and warned it could undermine the integrity of the vote.
Speaking at Channel 12’s Influencers Conference in Tel Aviv, Mandelblit said the Central Elections Committee had sufficient and effective tools at its disposal to prevent election fraud.
He said it was inconceivable that the government would pass last-minute legislation which the committee, the professional body charged with ensuring the validity of the process, has warned could cause “chaos.”
During the April 9 elections, Likud equipped some 1,200 polling officials working at ballot stations in Arab population centers with hidden body cameras to prevent what the party claims is rampant fraud in the community.
Critics have charged that Likud’s efforts were a form of voter intimidation designed to keep the minority from the polls, a claim seemingly corroborated by statements from the company contracted by Likud to carry out the operation, public relations firm Kaizler Inbar.