The Interior Ministry and the Israel Police will be taking extra precautions during the March 11 elections in Beit Shemesh and Nazareth to prevent the apparent voting fraud that led the courts to order a repeat of the balloting in both cities.
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At a meeting of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee on Monday, an Interior Ministry representative said that each polling station will have two secretaries, and all the secretaries will be government employees who do not live in the city in which they’ll be working.
The police announced at the hearing that they will be stationing officers at every polling station. In addition, the ballot boxes will get a police escort on the way from the polling stations to the central ballot-counting site in each city.
A large part of Monday's committee hearing was devoted to the ability of soldiers on active duty to vote in the repeat elections, since no provisions are being made to vote at army bases, as happens during regular elections. An Israel Defense Forces representative pledged that any soldier that wants to vote will be given special leave to return home to do so.
Ultra-Orthodox MKs who attended the hearing protested what they said was the portrayal of the Haredi community as responsible for fraudulent voting.
“This isn’t war, it’s Haredim. You know what the Haredim are?” asked MK David Azoulay (Shas). “They’re worse than war. What about the army, will the army be at the polling stations? What about the Shin Bet security service?”
During the hearing there was also a loud argument between the secular mayoral candidate in Beit Shemesh, Eli Cohen, and the ultra-Orthodox MKs.
Cohen accused the Haredim of inciting voters against him.
He was referring to posters that had been hung throughout the city calling on voters “to gather and defend themselves,” a quote from the Book of Esther. “The rest of the verse calls on the Jews to ‘annihilate, destroy, and slay,’” said Cohen. “That’s incitement. There is a clear and organized attempt to undermine the elections.”
MK Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism) responded by calling Cohen a “provocateur.”
“All your incitement campaigns will not bring you the mayor’s job, when you quote here only the half-verse that was used, and try to turn it into a call for incitement of some kind,” said Asher. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you won’t succeed, neither here nor in the Likud Central Committee. These elections will be determined at the ballot box and there, God willing, we’ll win.”