Netanyahu Fails to Pass Bill to Film at Polling Stations After Clash With Arab Party Leader

Avigdor Lieberman and the opposition boycotted the vote; Likud charges that the former defense minister is to blame for the result

MK Ayman Odeh films Netanyahu to protest his claim that Arabs are trying to 'steal the election,' September 11, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed on Wednesday to secure a majority of 61 lawmakers to pass a bill allowing parties to place cameras in polling stations.

Fifty-eight lawmakers voted in favor of the Likud-sponsored bill, but it didn't pass because of the special majority the Knesset's legal adviser had determined was required to approve the legislation. 

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 39Haaretz

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

Opposition parties and Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, boycotted the vote. The former defense minister shunned the vote, claiming that the monitoring of the polls should be centralized and not conducted by "Netanyahu's private militia."

Following the vote, Likud released a statement which charged that "the cameras bill failed to pass because of one person — Avigdor Lieberman — who banded with Lapid, Gantz and the Arab parties in order to enable voter fraud and steal the vote. This is the government that Gantz and Lapid will set up: A left-wing government with Lieberman, Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh as their ministers."

The Knesset vote came after a rare clash erupted between Netanyahu and Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh during a discussion that preceded.

Speaking at the Knesset, Netanyahu said that he was calling on Lieberman and his party to "sober up" and show up at the Knesset vote. After Netanyahu made his remarks, a rare confrontation occurred between the prime minister and Odeh.

As Netanyahu stepped down from the podium, Odeh called out at him: "You are a liar and you know it." He then clung to the premier with a camera, and was ejected from the auditorium. "Suddenly he has a problem with cameras," the Arab Israeli leader later wrote on Twitter. 

In his address at the Knesset plenum, Netanyahu said that was not surprised that Kahol Lavan party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, along with the left-wing parties, want to prevent this bill from passing. "I'm not surprised that the Arab partners want to prevent it."

He accused Lieberman of "serially toppling right-wing governments," and said that the stance of the different party leaders is a testament to what the next government would look like if he is not elected. It would be a "left-wing government headed by Gantz together with Avigdor Lieberman, who is acting to topple Likud. He is also acting to topple me." 

Lieberman's boycotting the vote will help Netanyahu portray his former defense minister as the main obstacle to the bill, Likud sources said. 

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

On Monday, the bill was rejected after the Knesset's Arrangement Committee, comprised of 24 members, reached a tie on the vote.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu announced Tuesday he intends to bring the bill to a Knesset vote, since a government-sponsored bill can be voted on within 48 hours.

Also on Wednesday, the Central Elections Committee announced that due to increased regulations to detect fraud and malpractice, the reveal of results of the September 17 election results will be delayed compared to previous years. The results will be announced on Wednesday afternoon, September 18.