Ben-Gvir Recruits Right-wing, Settler Activists to Monitor Arab Polling Stations

Claiming potential Arab voter fraud, Otzma Yehudit establishes an initiative to make right-wing activists and hilltop youth official election observers, giving them unfettered access to polling sites

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Voters wait in line at a polling place in an unrecognized Bedouin village in Israel, in 2019,
Voters wait in line at a polling place in an unrecognized Bedouin village in Israel, in 2019,Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

As fears of election fraud in Israel's Arab community mount among the political right, Kahanist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit party has decided to observe several dozen polling places in major Arab cities and towns.

The party is setting up a headquarters alongside a few dozen right wing activists and "hilltop youth" – radical settlement activists – for the initiative. They will serve as official election observers, which allows them to enter these polling places freely in order to ensure no fraud is being committed.

Otzma Yehudit has the right to place observers in about 30 polling stations in Arab towns on behalf of the Central Elections Committee, but in addition, observers may enter any other polling stations they wish after presenting documents showing that they are observers.

With Arab parties teetering on the brink of entering the Knesset in Israel's upcoming election, members of right-wing parties are fearing election fraud in polling places in Arab communities.

Otzma Yehudit said on Friday: “It is no secret that in previous elections, observers who were stationed in polling places in the Arab community were afraid to intervene in incidents of fraud because of the atmosphere of fear at those polling places. This time, this will not happen. We will not allow the right to lose power because of this fraud – and that is why we set up a special headquarters to prevent it.”

Following the April 2019 election, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that voter fraud in the Arab community is what pushed the Balad party over the electoral threshold, depriving his bloc of a 61-seat majority. His Likud party tweeted that that election had been "stolen" from him.

Amit Halevi, then number 36 on the Likud slate, petitioned the Jerusalem District Court, saying that his rightful place in the Knesset had been stolen due to mistakes and fraud in the vote count. The prosecutor told the court that the police were investigating allegations of fraud in 29 polling stations defined as suspicious by the Central Election Committee and examining 107 additional stations in the wake of a request by Knesset member David Bitan, the Likud representative on the committee.

In the wake of these claims, police investigated suspicion of fraud in six polling stations from that election which it received from the Central Elections Committee. In two of these there was indeed suspected fraud – favoring the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and Likud.

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