Israeli Election Committee Chief Warns of Foreign Meddling

Hanan Melcer, also a Supreme Court justice, expresses particular concern about anonymous election ads posted on social media. 'I can't say that I'm at ease'

Hagai Amit
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File photo: Polling station in Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015.
File photo: Polling station in Tel Aviv, March 17, 2015.Credit: Moti Milrod
Hagai Amit

The chairman of the Central Elections Committee warned Thursday about foreign interference in the election campaign over the next two months, though he declined to say whether attempts had been uncovered.

“I can’t say that I’m at ease,” Hanan Melcer, who is also a Supreme Court justice, told reporters. “I’m concerned. The question of how many such attempts at interference will be successful is a function of the measures taken against them.”

Melcer said he had met with the head of the National Cyber Directorate at the Prime Minister’s Office, and the agency was addressing the problem.

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Last month, the head of the Shin Bet security service said a foreign country intended to intervene in the election, though he did not name it, Channel 12 News reported.

Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer
Supreme Court Justice Hanan MelcerCredit: Nir Kafri

On Thursday, Melcer expressed particular concern about anonymous election advertising posted on social media. “The more anonymity can be curbed the better," he said.

This month Facebook announced that, as of March, it will to try to prevent the posting of anonymous campaign material on the social network before the April 9 election.

Asked whether the election committee had already uncovered attempts at foreign interference, Melcer said that “I would prefer not to answer that.”

When asked about combating election-related bots on social media – which generate automatic messages – he said the issue was being addressed.

Melcer was also asked about the new Likud party television channel on Facebook, where reality TV star Eliraz Sade has interviewed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Melcer was asked whether the channel meets ethical standards on election advertising. “On the face of it, it doesn’t appear to be improper,” he said.

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