Netanyahu Denies Cameras at Polling Stations Targeted Arab Voters, Contradicting PR Firm Behind Move

'Cameras prevent election rigging,' the premier says, arguing those who oppose controversial move don't want 'a real vote count'

Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, West Bank, September 4, 2019.
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

LONDON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday those who oppose installing cameras in polling stations – a proposal championed by his Likud party and blasted by opponents as anti-Arab – are effectively allowing voter fraud in Israel's September 17 election. (For the latest election polls – click here)

He denied that in the April vote cameras were installed only in Arab communities, even though the public relations company behind the initiative boasted about lowering voter turnout among Israeli Arab voters.

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"Cameras prevent election rigging," Netanyahu told reporters before heading back from a snap visit to London, where he met on Thursday British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. "We're saying, install cameras in all polling stations. How can anyone oppose something so basic?"

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Netanyahu went on to argue that an appeal to High Court of Justice by Kahol Lavan leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid against recording at polling stations shows "the last thing they want is real vote count," and called on all political parties to equip Election Day monitors with cameras.

On Wednesday, however, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said there was a "legal impediment" making it impossible to pass a bill that would allow political parties to place cameras in polling stations, which now Netanyahu was calling for.

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

A Likud source 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 PR company responsible for installing cameras in polling stations in April, Kaizler Inbar, said in a Facebook a day after Election Day: "Thanks to us placing observers in every polling station we managed to lower the voter turnout to under 50 percent, the lowest in recent years!"