Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Central Elections Committee against the New Right party, charging it with misleading voters on election day.
The two right-wing parties are fighting over the same voters amid polls indicating that both are struggling to make an impact in the elections and could fail to cross the electoral threshold.
According to the complaint filed by Yisrael Beytenu, New Right, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, was behind Russian-language telephone calls and text messages to voters saying that new polling showed that Yisrael Beytenu would not cross the electoral threshold and calling on them not to waste their vote and instead rally behind New Right.
The complaint also said that some calls had purported to be from Evgeny Sova, number 3 on the Yisrael Beytenu slate, saying the same thing.
Yisrael Beytenu demanded that New Right send a new message to the same voters clarifying that it does not have any such information.
New Right did not immediately comment on the allegation, but issued its own plea to voters warning that the party was in danger of not passing the threshold.
Bennett claimed his party was in “a bad situation.”
Saying the party had been hurt by claims from Likud and the United Right-Wing Parties alliance that they could, respectively, lose to Blue and White or fail to pass the electoral threshold, Bennett urged activists to spread similar claims about New Right.
“I ask you to say that those campaigns are incorrect, and that instead, it is we who are in real danger,” he implored his party’s activists.
“If we do not change the voting trend, we will wake up tomorrow with Ayelet Shaked no longer justice minister, and us having lost our ability to influence,” he said.
Bennett and Shaked broke away from the Jewish Home party ahead of the elections to form New Right, but now appear to be struggling without their national religious base. Jewish Home meanwhile formed the United Right-Wing Parties with the National Union and the extremist Otzma Yehudit party.
For years Yisrael Beytenu has relied on the support of the traditionally hawkish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
But its waning support in recent years has seen it decline to just six seats in the 120-seat Knesset in 2015. Previously, a joint ticket with Likud in 2013 scored 31 seats. In 2009, the right-wing and secularist party won 15 seats, its best-ever showing.
Over the past five years, the large demographic of Russian speakers has appeared to be shifting away from the party, a move attributed to both corruption allegations that plagued Yisrael Beytenu during the last election and to the successful integration of children of the immigrants from the early 1990s, who are now seeking their political fortunes elsewhere. Other parties, notably Likud, have also courted the so-called Russian vote.
Liberman resigned from the powerful Defense Ministry five months ago in protest of the government’s policies on Gaza, a move that triggered political upheaval.