Netanyahu accuses Blue and White of vandalizing ballots, provides no proof

Netanyahu accuses Blue and White of vandalizing ballots, provides no proof

Accusation comes shortly after Benny Gantz’s party filed a complaint over its own slips being vandalized

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

A tray of ballot slips at a voting booth in Israel's parliamentary election on April 9, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
A tray of ballot slips at a voting booth in Israel's parliamentary election on April 9, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday afternoon accused Blue and White activists of invalidating Likud voting slips, a short time after Blue and White filed a complaint claiming its own slips were being vandalized. Unlike Blue and White, the prime minister did not offer proof.

Following a trip to the beach, Netanyahu was supposed to visit the coastal city of Ashdod, but canceled the campaign stop to instead hold an “emergency meeting” at his official residence in Jerusalem over what his Likud party said were low turnout levels at traditional strongholds for the party.

Speaking to beachgoers in the coastal city of Netanya in a get-out-the vote push, Netanyahu told the revelers to “get out of the water, leave your homes and come vote for Likud.”

Warning that if they don’t, “you will wake up with Yair Lapid as the head of a left-wing government,” referring to the No. 2 in the Benny Gantz-led Blue and White party, the primary challenger to Likud, the prime minister also warned them to check their voting slip was not marked in any way, in order to ensure it won’t be disqualified during the vote count Tuesday night.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a campaign video filmed at a beach in the coastal city of Netanya on April 9, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

“Make sure, because Gantz and Lapid’s people are marking the slips so that they won’t be counted,” he alleged.

Earlier, police said they were investigating what some Blue and White officials claimed amounts to a systematic campaign to vandalize — and thus disqualify — Blue and White ballots around the country.

Multiple parties, from far-left to far-right, have claimed ballots were damaged, hidden or missing at a few of the 10,000 polling stations around the country. But according to Blue and White activists in a complaint filed with the Central Elections Committee, its ballot slips were being “systematically” damaged.

Blue and White provided examples to the committee of vandalized ballots with small markings on them that would disqualify the vote.

Elections Committee chair Justice Hanan Melcer said that if police find evidence of widespread vandalism meant to disqualify Blue and White votes, he would instruct polling stations to count damaged or marked ballots for the party as valid.

In a video released before Netanyahu’s trip to the beach, Lapid urged Blue and White voters to carefully check their ballot slip to ensure it wasn’t marked.

Blue and White party no. 2 Yair Lapid arrives to vote at a polling station in the Ramat Gan neighborhood of Tel Aviv on April 9, 2019. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

“I’m here at Blue and White headquarters,” Lapid said in the video. “We’re getting reports from all over the country about attempts to vandalize pey-hey slips,” he added, using the two Hebrew letters that identify the party on the slips.

“They’re writing ‘x’ on the back, or some other small mark. That’s enough to disqualify the ballot. This is a concerted effort to undermine the democratic process, and we must stop it. Anyone who goes to vote, make sure your slip is clean. If you see something like this, report it to the police or the ballot station committee. This is an attempt to undermine the democratic process on the part of parties that are afraid we’re going to win the election,” he said.

Separately, activists and election observers, primarily from the Likud party, placed at least 1,200 hidden cameras in polling stations in Arab towns Tuesday, prompting a police investigation. Some of the cameras were hidden on the bodies of activists and observers from the party, and some were said to have been installed in the polling stations.

The effort included devices planted in Arab towns throughout the Galilee and Negev, and in Arab-majority areas in Haifa, Nazareth, and elsewhere.

A hidden camera allegedly snuck into a polling station in an Arab town by a Likud observer during Israel’s parliamentary elections on April 9, 2019. (Courtesy Hadash-Ta’al)

Activists deployed the cameras in areas where they suspected there could be “problematic” levels of election fraud, according to the Ynet website.

Melcer, of the Central Elections Committee, said filming inside polling stations was a breach of election law and issued a directive prohibiting filming voters inside polling stations, “except in the case of a special incident.”

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