Nine days before the election, on Sunday, the attorney general is attending a government meeting to discuss the Cameras Law which the Likud is attempting to pass. AG Mandelblit, who has already expressed his opposition to the law, will attend a meeting to alert ministers to the implications of the bill.
Political circles and the media expect the bill will be approved by the government, even though it won’t receive a majority in the Knesset.
Update: Despite Mandelblit’s opinion, the cabinet unanimously approved the bill, which will now need to pass three votes in the Knesset to officially become a valid law in time for the elections on September 17. The bill will be brought to the Knesset on Monday for a special quick process with three consecutive votes, according to TPS.
If the bill passes in the Knesset, it will likely be challenged in the Supreme Court, which could nullify the law, forcing the Knesset to pass the legislation in a regular procedure.
The Cameras bill, jointly drafted by ministers Amir Ohana (Likud) and Aryeh Deri (Shas), is intended to enable politically identifiable observers who serve as representatives of the parties at the polling stations to document suspicions of offenses in polling stations.
According to its latest decision, the Knesset election committee will place inspectors at random polling stations, or in polling stations that were “problematic” in the past. The collected materials will not be distributed to the public, and will only be used by the police and the election committee.
However, should there be a reasonable suspicion of violating the “purity of the election” (sic), and police representatives are unable to come to the scene, the secretary of the ballot committee can, with prior approval from the election committee, record the events on a mobile phone.
Election Committee Chairman, Justice Hanan Meltzer, has stated that systematically placing cameras at polling stations requires a major legislation, which is also the Attorney General’s position.
“Getting such a fundamental change in the election law with such close proximity to election day will prevent the committee from being able to conduct a proper election day,” according to the committee’s position that was submitted to the Attorney General. It also suggested that the proposed legislation “could very likely prevent some citizens from voting and even cause confusion and chaos when the selection process is in progress.”
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) told Army Radio on Sunday that the new law is vital to maintaining the elections’ fairness in expressing the will of the voter.
“Things happened in April,” Kahlon said. “Every law-abiding citizen who cherishes democracy should support this bill, of course in coordination with the jurists, in order that this is done correctly and legally.”
However, Kahlon also said that in all his years in government, there has never been a bill that was submitted against the objections of the attorney general.
“Mandelblit will explain his position and the limits and we’ll try to adjust ourselves according to his direction,” Kahlon said.
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) told Reshet Bet: “The law is necessary, placing cameras in the polling station is a necessary thing. We’ve seen big problems that distorted the results. I respect the AG, we will not act contrary to his legal position.”
Likud officials were saying Sunday morning they would submit the bill to the Knesset tomorrow, even without a majority, but the party also expects that even if they manage to get it passed, the High Court of Justice would kill it.
Haaretz quoted a Likud official who said that one of the main goals of the legislation is to revive the “Arab multitudes are bussed to the polls” last-minute campaign that gave Likud the victory in 2015, spurring previously indifferent Likud voters to the polls.
But on August 15, a Haaretz investigation into the problems at the polling stations throughout Israel in the April elections, yielded dire conclusions:
The polling stations supervision is loose, and dozens of polls revealed disorder and irregularities that no one has checked.
Representatives at the polling stations filled out many hundreds of forms contrary to instructions, which may hide counterfeit results.
There was no representation of opposition parties in more than 1,000 polling stations committees (out of 10,458 stations).
Due to time pressure, judges signed hundreds of voting protocols within five hours after the count, with virtually no opportunity to examine them thoroughly.
In the election committee, thousands of votes were keyed-in for the wrong parties.
Anomalous voting and anomalous voting percentages in localities have not been examined at all.
Police have launched investigations into only six out of hundreds of suspicious polls where there is clear evidence of cheating.
United Torah Judaism and the Joint Arab Lists agreed on a deal to increase their mutual power at their most vital polling stations.
The Central Election Committee admits that their methods of detecting forgeries are not sufficient.
As a result, a Likud internal survey regarding the camera law shows more than 70% of Israelis support it.
Likud’s argument is founded on a hearing held last Tuesday in Jerusalem District Court regarding a petition submitted by Amit Halevi, who was number 36 on the Likud list in April. He claims that his seat in the Knesset had been stolen because of errors in counting and forgery. At the hearing, Halevi’s lawyer claimed that there were suspicions of counterfeiting in more than 200 polls, whose disqualification would have resulted in the Arab Balad party not passing the threshold vote.
However, the same attorney was unable to present any concrete evidence to the court.
So far, according to anonymous police sources, out of the six polling stations under investigation, Likud and Shas have been engaged in forgery, and no forgery by Arab parties has so far been found. Of course, those six stations could be far away from any Arab population center.
The Central Election Commission last week issued a resolution stating that polling station cameras will not be allowed in the next election, but it will be possible to tape the vote count – strictly by supervisors sanctioned by the vote purity committee to be appointed by the election committee. However, should there be irregularities during the voting, the supervisors are allowed to record those as well.
The election committee’s decision to allow partial recording is in response to a request to ban placing any cameras in polling stations, submitted by a number of NGOs, including Adalah, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, the Israeli Democracy Institute, and MK Aida Toma-Sliman (Joint Arab List).