Probe Suspected Arab Voter Fraud, Israeli Election Committee Chief Urges

Justice Hanan Melcer cites testimonies by Likud officials based on hidden cameras; calls on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to launch an investigation

Votes being counted.
אורן בן חקון

The chair of Israel's Central Election Committee, Justice Hanan Melcer, asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Sunday to probe whether voter fraud took place at polling stations in Arab communities during the country's general election on April 9.

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The justice wrote a letter to Mendelblit following a letter he received from the Likud party's representative in the committee, Knesset member David Bitan. The latter called for such a probe to take place, and based his claims on footage from polling stations and testimonies by Likud observers and other members of the committee.

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"Most of the occurrences described [by MK Bitan] and the reports he includes justify, allegedly, the opening of criminal probes into several of the cases or all of them, and I asked that you instruct [police] to do so immediately," Melcer wrote.

The justice noted that while he did instruct that cameras placed by Likud at Arab polling stations be removed, he does not rule out using the materials documented by them for the purpose of a police investigation. "It is fit for the police to collect all the related materials, and pending instructions by the prosecution, examine whether these materials ought to be looked into," he added.

In the week leading up to the election, Melcer allowed the use of audio recordings taken at the aforementioned stations in cases where there was concern that the voting process was disrupted.

Justice Hanan Melcer at a press conference, Jerusalem, April 11, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

In addition to the polling stations noted by Bitan and the Likud party members, Melcer added two additional polling stations, in Kisra-Sumei and Afula, in which the Central Election Committee noted issues. Melcer asked that they be investigated as well.

With that, Melcer refused Bitan's request to disqualify the results of the polling stations, and said that without a criminal investigation, there is not enough evidence to justify disqualifying the votes.

A day after the election, PR office Kaizer-Inbar took responsibility for the Likud's hidden cameras in Arab polling stations. "Because there were observers on our behalf at every polling station, the [Arab] voting rate dropped by 50 percent – the lowest seen in recent years!" The PR firm bragged in a post published on Facebook. "Did you see the articles blazing through the media on Election Day? The ones about the cameras that were planted in Arab voting stations that helped avoid thousands of frauds? So yes, we are 'to blame' in that sense."

On Election Day, it was reported that Likud purchased 1200 cameras and placed them at polling stations in Arab communities, in order to "ensure the purity of the elections."

The police confiscated the cameras that were discovered, and a political source told Haaretz that "the measure was taken to ensure that Ra'am-Balad does not cross the electoral threshold through voter fraud, endangering the right-wing bloc."

Knesset Member Aida Touma-Suleiman and Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, wrote the attorney general and asked to instruct that the cameras and the materials documented on them be confiscated. Touma-Suleiman asked Mendelblit to launch a probe against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud, and the PR firm for incitement, breach of privacy and violation of election law.