Even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been warning of other parties trying to steal the elections, police investigations from April’s vote have found minimal tampering, and that such abuse as there was benefited Netanyahu’s Likud and the ultra-Orthodox Shas parties.
A police investigation into suspected fraud at a number of voting stations during national elections reportedly found evidence of possible illegal activity by representatives from Likud and Shas, according to a report Friday by the Kan public broadcaster.
At Kisra-Sumei, a town in northern Israel, evidence was found indicating there were fraudulent votes during the April 9 elections that benefited the ruling Likud, while in Tamra, also in the north, a Shas representative was suspected of adding extra voting slips, the report said.
It was not clear, however, for which party the extra slips were suspected of being added.
Meanwhile, Kan reported that police only found sufficient evidence to justify a criminal investigation at one of 140 polling stations flagged by Likud for alleged fraudulent activity by Israel’s Arab minority.
Another 24 voting stations from all over the country were also reportedly being checked for possible cases of double voting.
The report came as Likud has claimed in recent days that April’s elections for the Knesset were “stolen” and that the Ra’am-Balad coalition of Arab parties only entered the Knesset due to fraudulent votes.
“You can’t ignore the feeling that the elections are being stolen from us,” Likud tweeted on Tuesday following a district court hearing on alleged voter fraud. “Today it was established that if [voter] fraud had been prevented, Balad would not have passed the threshold percentage, and the right-wing bloc under the leadership of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu would have had 61 seats. This would have kept Israel from unnecessary elections.”
Netanyahu’s party is now warning the same will happen again in fresh elections on September 17 if cameras at polling stations are not permitted, but has not provided any substantiating evidence to back up it claim.
In the April elections, Likud deployed cameras at Arab polling stations, which critics have charged 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.
Likud is trying to expand the program despite the opposition of the attorney general and the Central Elections Committee, which last week banned party representatives on polling station committees from being equipped with cameras at ballot booths, instead tasking a new independent body of poll watchers with preventing voter fraud.
On Friday, Netanyahu claimed that his opponents are opposed to allowing political parties to bring cameras into polling stations because they “want to steal the election.”
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.”
A day earlier, Gantz appeared to anticipate Netanyahu’s tactics, saying that the PM 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 Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer.
Later Friday Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit warned the government against rushing through a law allowing political parties to bring cameras into polling stations, saying the move was “aberrant and flawed” and would undermine the entire vote.
In a legal opinion sent to government ministers, Mandelblit said the passage of such legislation so close to the September 17 elections would interfere with the voting process. The attorney general is set to take part in a cabinet meeting Sunday on expediting the passage of the so-called Camera Bill, which is being championed by Netanyahu, and warn ministers against it.
The upcoming elections were initiated by Netanyahu after he came one seat short of forming a ruling majority after April’s vote, rather than having another lawmaker get a crack at putting together a government.