‘Stop the Steal’ Effort Underway in Israel, Too, Warns Election Chief

Omer Benjakob
Omer Benjakob
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Supporters of Donald Trump march to the Supreme Court in Washington, last year.
Supporters of Donald Trump march to the Supreme Court in Washington, last year.Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP
Omer Benjakob
Omer Benjakob

Attempts to delegitimize Israel's upcoming March 23 election results have begun, even before they are in, Israel’s top election official warned on Thursday, flagging what seems like a local version of the “Stop the Steal” campaign launched by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters in wake of the 2020 U.S. election.

Central Elections Committee Director-General Orly Ades told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Thursday that “there are delegitimization attempts against the election results and the committee.

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“It happened during the [September 2019] election and increased during the [March 2020] election, and we have seen it in recent weeks,” she said. “It is concerning, but the Central Elections Committee has proven it does a great job and all the claims made against it were proven to be baseless.”

She added that “this is not the kind of pressure that should take place in a democratic country.”

In the interview, Ades did not name any specific party and said it does not matter whether false statements about the election’s integrity are made by “the left or the right.” However, she was asked about a number of different claims that were all made by members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, his family and his supporters.

Likud’s representative at the election committee, Shlomo Karhi, has tweeted a number of times that final results from the election, which is being held next Tuesday, would be in by Thursday – despite the fact that the committee says they will only be in on Friday or even Saturday.

Without naming Likud, Ades said the committee “is aware that from the time the polling stations close until there are final results, there will be fake claims. We’ve seen this happen in other places and we are prepared. I can only hope the public will wait for final results and not be pulled into this.”

She further said that “all those who claimed that Israel’s election process is exposed [to fraud] or that the results are fake failed to prove this. There is simply no proof. Yes, there are some incidents on the fringes, but with all the things we do – from observers to cameras at voting stations – the ability to undermine the election’s integrity is almost zero.”

In recent weeks, the right-wing group Im Tirtzu, which is supportive of Netanyahu and whose leaders have also pushed out claims regarding the voting process, sent out a link allowing its members to register as poll observers. The link was leaked to the group and as a result, all their volunteers were banned from serving as observers.

Asked about an attempt by the right-wing group to fill up the volunteer observer position with its members, Ades said: “We find our own workers and do not outsource this to private organizations. This time, we need twice as many observers – over 6,500 people – and had a pilot program to find more people. [Im Tirtzu] posted the link from the pilot program on their Facebook page and told its people to sign up. This practice undermines the principle of equality and so we rejected about 100 different people who had registered.”

Other surrogates affiliated with Netanyahu, particularly his son Yair Netanyahu, have launched even more direct assaults on the election, like saying that previous election results were faked and that the election in March of 2020 was “stolen.”

Asked about Yair Netanyahu’s statements, Ades said that “with all due respect to the prime minister’s son – if he really stands behind his claims, he should provide proof.” She noted the conspiratorial claims made on social media in wake of the last election “that the right won 67 Knesset seats but that the judge who chairs the committee had the results changed manually to 58,” and explained that “it is simply and completely baseless.

“I can only hope the public is smart enough to filter out this false information,” she said. “I find it sad and I don’t even really want to address claims against our [Supreme Court] justices because they are not worthy of comment.”

In the first of Israel’s latest string of elections, Netanyahu’s party sent monitors equipped with body cameras to several polling stations with a large number of Arab constituents in what Arab politicians described as voter intimidation.

On election days in Israel, representatives of most parties sit at venues to check the pre-vote identification process. Voters are then handed an envelope and go behind a screen to cast their ballot in private. There is little to no proof of voter fraud in Israel.

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