Opinion |

How a Netanyahu-linked NGO Is Importing Trump's 'Stolen Election' Campaign

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Poll workers counting votes in Israel's 2020 election. The subjects have no connection to the content of the article.
Poll workers counting votes in Israel's 2020 election. The subjects have no connection to the content of the article.Credit: Moti Milrod
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

It was only a matter of time until the right tried to import Donald Trump’s “stolen election” campaign – in spite of its ugly denouement on Capitol Hill. And in fact, the right-wing Im Tirtzu movement was the first to pick up the gauntlet – or in this case, the fur hat with the horns – with a campaign it started about three weeks ago against the chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 24th Knesset – Justice Uzi Vogelman. At the time it was enough to attach to his name the name of the vilified Wexner Foundation in order to arouse demons whose only purpose was to imply that he is likely to slant the election.

But that really wasn’t the end of the story, only the beginning. Since the launching of the organization’s “Initiative to preserve the purity of the election,” which warns of “many cases of falsifying votes throughout the country,” with an emphasis on a mention of “polls in the Arab sector,” behind the scenes there is a stormy battle being waged to recruit workers for central roles in the election – the real objective of the campaign.

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For every celebration of democracy, which in Israel’s case has already turned into a day of mourning because we’ve had so many election campaigns, there are boring bureaucratic mechanisms. Someone has to count, register, load, fold – and supervise. And so, aside from the jobs in the polling places that are reserved for representatives of the various parties, there are also jobs designated for those who are not politically affiliated at the time of recruitment, such as the secretaries of the polling committees, those supervising the purity of the elections and the vote counters, including the counters of the double envelopes (votes cast by those who cannot reach their designated polling place, such as, diplomats).

For these jobs, which are at the heart of the democratic system, Im Tirtzu, which definitely does have a political identity, has been attempting in recent weeks to recruit as many volunteers as possible. They are doing so by sending emails to those participating in the initiative, containing links for registering for the public positions. Although they stress that the positions are not on their behalf – “The initiative is not party-oriented and is open to the entire public from all sectors and ideologies” – the ties between Likud and Im Tirtzu are well known and of long standing, and in these emails the purpose of the recruitment is also very clear: “It’s important for you to keep us informed so that we can receive updates from you (which are legal) on Election Day if necessary.”

However, with all due caution, at least in one case in this mass recruitment campaign, it seems that Im Tirtzu has failed: Its members publicized the link for the job of counters of double envelopes in a mysterious manner, long before the general public got the link.

The Central Elections Committee reacted a few days ago by blocking the employment – in any position – of anyone who registered via the leaked link. According to the committee’s notice, the link leaked to Im Tirtzu was the result of a pilot by the placement committee that won the recruitment tender.

Committee head, attorney Orly Adas, announced that she “considers the leaking of the link to the registration as a serious problem.” That’s it – “she has a very negative opinion of the leaking of the registration links.” No additional investigation that will examine how the mischievous link leaked into the hands of the specific organization, which of course is continuing the initiative to distribute the jobs to people who will “update” it on Election Day.

In response, Im Tirzu turned to the attorney general, demanding that he instruct the Elections Committee to retract the rejection of these recruitments. “The link came into the hands of Im Tirtzu legally,” wrote its members.

The positions for overseeing the purity of the election are designated for a variety of citizens who are not party members. They must not be controlled by a political organization, and certainly not one that is identified with an incumbent prime minister. The ostensibly harsh response of the Elections Committee is not sufficiently harsh under the circumstances. The recruitment that has become tainted must be rebooted, and the supervisors must be supervised.

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