Election Won't Be Supervised by 'Netanyahu's Private Militia,' Lieberman Says

Likud lawmaker David Bitan meets with Central Election Committee head in attempt to reach compromise on placing cameras at polling stations, attempting to avoid promoting controversial legislation

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, Jerusalem, September 9, 2019.

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday his party opposes a bill promoted by the government which would allow political representatives to film at voting ballots in the September 17 election, saying monitoring should be unified and not conducted by "Netanyahu's private militia." (For the latest election polls – click here)

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Also Monday, Likud lawmaker David Bitan will meet with Central Elections Committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer in an attempt to reach understandings about the placement of cameras at polling station on Election Day, and thus avoid promoting the legislation pushed for by the party. 

According to a political source, Netanyahu "sent Bitan to gain a 'small achievement' that would allow him to back down from advancing the Likud-drafted bill permitting filming at election polling stations by circumventing bureaucratic procedures.

>> 'Arab voter fraud'? What's really behind Netanyahu's push for cameras in polling stations | Explained 

Elections Committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer and Likud lawmaker David Bitan, Jerusalem, August, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

"Netanyahu estimates that even if Lieberman votes in favor of the bill in first reading, he won't support it in second and third readings," the source said.

According to the proposed draft bill, the representative of parties running in next week's election will be able to record every conversation being held between members of polling station committees as well as between voters "at the polling station and near it."  

In a statement. Lieberman said he supports monitoring the voting process both in the Arab sector and in ultra-Orthodox communities. "There must be homogeneous supervision at all polling stations."

Lieberman said his party is interested in having the election monitored, while adding that the proposed draft bill is meant to disrupt the proper course of the voting process.

"Try to imagine a polling station where ten parties have placed cameras, and everybody is filming everybody," Lieberman told reports.

"There must be a unified approach toward all sectors and locations. It cannot be that those monitoring [the voting process] will be appointed by Netanyahu's private militia," Lieberman said.

He added that current bill is not egalitarian, since Liked has a bigger budget due to the size of the party, and therefore will be able to send a lot more observers to the polling stations than other parties.

The former defense minister called the bill a "smoke screen to divert the discussion from Netanyahu's submission to terror, to the ultra-Orthodox and to the messianic Jews."

Likud said they intend continue promoting the bill at least in first reading in order to cast responsibility for it not passing on Lieberman.

Likud is trying to formulate a legal opinion according to which a 61-seat majority is not needed to approve the bill, while a simple majority of the Knesset is sufficient.

"The Knesset secretariat announced that a 61-seat majority is needed since the bill to place cameras at polling stations requires an amendment to the Basic Law: The Knesset, which states election must be secret and equal nationwide. If we establish Basic law is not violated, we won't need a 61-seat majority," a Likud official involved in promoting the bill said.

The Knesset will convene at 1:00 PM to pass the bill in first reading.

On Sunday Lieberman took to social media to voice his desire to amend the bill, adding a clause that only citizens who vote will be entitled to an Election Day holiday. However, he didn't condition his support for the bill on the amendment.

Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar said Sunday that he is working to include a clause in the bill according to which those who won't vote on September 17 won't be entitled to Election Day holiday. Zohar is yet to submit a draft of the amendment. He said the bill will probably be amended between the second and third reading, slated to take place on Wednesday.

Likud is examining two possible outlines to the amendment, with the first being establishing a data base documenting those who voted, and the second being a demand that every voter presents a slip from the polling station proving that he cast a ballot on Election Day as a condition to receiving pay for that day.

The establishment of the data base, relying on information provided by the Central Election Committee, is expected to pose "constitutional questions" due to the disclosure of voters' details by the committee, a Likud official said.

Labor-Gesher, Kahol Lavan, the Arab Joint List and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have already announced they would petition against the bill after its passing in second and third reading. It is unclear whether a bill initiated by a transitional government so close to the election would be approved by the High Court of Justice. Likud officials estimated the bill will not be approved.