An election watchdog group is questioning the results of the last elections, claiming that fraud may have cost Netanyahu the victory. But with the issue still unresolved and election officials reluctant or unwilling to investigate, the real concern is for the upcoming elections being held in two weeks.
Testimony in the High Court
Adv. Simcha Rothman, Legal Advisor for Meshilut (the Israeli Movement for Governability and Democracy), posted his interview on Kan 11 under the provocative title, “Did they steal the election from us?” The title sounds extreme but if his testimony in front of the Israel High Court on Wednesday proves accurate, it understates the situation which may continue into the next national elections.
Rothman testified that the Arab party Balad engaged in election fraud that gave their party an additional 10,000 votes. Meshilut began by investigating the results at ten polling stations and found irregularities in the number of ballots that were serious enough to influence the results of the elections. The organization submitted its findings four months ago to the Israeli Central Elections Committee composed of Knesset members from various parties and is chaired by a Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer.
“That was the beginning of a never-ending saga in which it appeared in every way that Justice Melcer was taking one side of the issue instead of running a process in which each side was treated equally,” Rothman said. “For example, he let Agudat Yisrael (an ultra-Orthodox religious party) to do whatever they wanted.”
But Meshilut continued in their efforts and this morning, the case came before Judge Moshe Sobel who determined that one mandate that was awarded to Agudat Yisrael which should have rightfully gone to Likud.
Rothman then related that after originally ruling that irregularities in the counting of ballots in the Arab village of Kasra Smia, Judge Meltzer announced that the irregularities represented election fraud. This fraud was also at the expense of Likud.
It should be noted that the Israeli national elections in April ended in a 35 seat tie between Likud and the opposing Blue and White party. Netanyahu at the head of Likud was tasked with organizing a coalition but was unsuccessful
After the election, the election committee announced that 28,000 invalid votes were cast. These votes were disqualified. Some blame Israel’s antiquated and decidedly low-tech system in which Israelis cast their ballots by placing printed paper slips in an envelope and putting the envelope into a large box.
Arab Villages Overrepresented in Election Fraud
Meshilut challenged Melcer, noting that there were approximately 140 other ballot locations with irregularities that were currently under investigation.
“What Judge Melcer absolutely knew with 100 percent certainty that the results he announced the day after the elections in May did not reflect the true results of the Israeli election.”
Almost all of the questionable ballots were in Arab villages and Rothman stated that in his estimation based on the ongoing investigations if the questionable ballots had been disqualified, Balad, an Arab party, would not have passed the minimum threshold for representation in the Knesset.
“Since Judge Meltzer’s eliminated Kasr Smia for irregularities, he should have eliminated all the other villages that we know have even worse irregularities,” Rothman maintained. He noted that the details concerning these irregularities are confidential to the overseeing judges.
Netanyahu was heavily criticized for placing security cameras in Arab polling stations. The Arab Hadash–Ta’al alliance filed a complaint requesting the removal of 1,200 concealed cameras.
It should also be noted that 35 party officials of Balad, one of the four Arab-majority parties that make up the Joint List, are being indicted for forgery and fraud relating to their reports on campaign funding involving misappropriating $690,000 from foreign sources for campaigning. The party rejected the accusations, claiming they were part of “political persecution.”
“Judges sit in a sealed room and send us a fax telling us who won the elections without allowing us to see the details,” Rothman said. “You should be very concerned about the elections in two weeks.