Netanyahu Says Knesset Vote to Allow Cameras at Polling Stations to Go Ahead

The vote, dubbed by critics as an election ploy, comes despite government's failure to fast-track controversial legislation

The Knesset in Jerusalem, on April 29, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that his government still intends to bring a controversial bill that would allow political party representatives to film at polling stations on Election Day to a Knesset vote.(For the latest election polls – click here)

On Monday, the Knesset Arrangements Committee did not agree to fast-track the legislative process, meaning chances are slim it will make it into law before September 17. The vote, set to take place on Wednesday, would be the first of three necessary.

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The decision to bring it to a vote has been labeled by critics as an election ploy. Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman announced on Monday that his party would not support the bill. Lawmakers in the former defense minister's party are not expected to show up to vote at the Knesset tomorrow, which means the cameras bill will likely not pass the first legislative hurdle. 

This would allow the prime minister to put Lieberman on the spot and portray him as responsible for foiling the legislation. A source in Netanyahu’s Likud party told Haaretz that the move was also designed to energize apathetic Likud voters and boost their turnout to offset alleged voter fraud at polling stations in Arab communities.

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Although the bill does not permit the recording of voters actually making their selection in the voting booth, it would permit party representatives to film any conversation between the members of the precinct election committee and the voters “at the polling place or its vicinity.”

The bill is opposed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who last week warned it would not withstand legal scrutiny, and could lead to chaos. The cabinet gave its consent to the legislation on Sunday at a meeting at which Mendelblit again expressed his reservations.

“Everyone takes videos,” Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting. “It’s all in [Instagram] stories. There are cameras filming in any store, so why are polling stations the only places where you can’t film?” According to Netanyahu, the bill “ensures the upcoming election will be clean, supervised and precise, which is just what the citizens of Israel expect from us.”