Israel's Attorney General Says Netanyahu's Likud Can't Pass Bill to Film at Polling Stations

'We won't let them steal the election,' Netanyahu says in apparent reference to Arab voters, as his party presses to pass the bill in an expedited process

Cameras installed by activists near Arab polling stations.
Hadash Spokesperson's Office

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said Wednesday that there was a "legal impediment" making it impossible to pass a bill that would allow political parties to place cameras in polling stations. (For the latest election polls - click here)

The bill is being pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party, which pledged to continue efforts to pass the legislation. 

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"We will continue legislating the bill to place cameras in polling stations," Netanyahu said. "We won't let them steal the election."

A source within Likud said that "advancing the bill, even though it has no chance, is meant to keep the narrative of 'Arabs stealing the vote' in the minds of Likud voters. This will get them to go out and vote."

The bill, which was formulated by Justice Minister Amir Ohana (Likud) and Interior Minister Arye Dery (Shas), would allow observers of known political affiliation who are serving as party representatives on the polling station committees to document voting offenses.

The Likud bill was released earlier this week for public comment in an expedited procedure ahead of its cabinet vote on Sunday. If it advances, the Knesset will likely undertake an irregular procedure, which includes establishing a special Knesset committee to facilitate the bill’s passage in three readings by next Thursday, allowing it to take effect before Election Day

According to the letter of the law, a government that has lost the confidence of the Knesset can advance legislation during the period leading up to an election.

Mendelblit criticized the bill Tuesday, saying he believes it could discourage disadvantaged populations from voting, make it easier for political activists to document what happens behind the barrier that shields the voter from view, and lead to problems in properly managing the voting process.

In a letter to Ohana and Dery, Mendelblit wrote that it “raises not a few substantial legal difficulties.” The attorney general did not invalidate the bill in his letter, but said that an official opinion on the matter is forthcoming.

The letter relates only to the bill and does not express an opinion on the Central Elections Committee's proposed one-time arrangement. On September 17, the committee is expected to operate an election transparency unit, in which official representatives, rather than those from political parties, will be allowed to document vote counting and problematic incidents under certain circumstances in polling stations.

In his letter, Mendelblit made it clear that “under the circumstances and the said timetable, a government bill cannot undergo a legislative process suited to such a complex and sensitive bill as this one. The timetable does not allow for the required preliminary staff work needed to formulate a bill on this complex, sensitive and innovative issue.”