Mandelblit to Personally Appeal to Ministers Against Poll Cameras

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With the High Court refusing to hear petitions against a proposed law that would allow for the deployment of cameras in polling stations before it is passed, State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit on Friday reached out to government ministers to warn them against approving the bill. “Advancing the law will harm the election process and prevent proper elections,” he wrote in a letter to ministers.

“The process by which this law was proposed and is being advanced is problematic. The law will impede the conduct of fair elections, as described by the head of the Central Elections Committee.” Mandelblit intends to come to the government Cabinet meeting Sunday, where it is expected that ministers will approve the law for legislation.

With nine days until the election, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to pass the law in an emergency session of the Knesset, thus allowing for the deployment of cameras. Speaking Friday as he boarded a plane for Israel after meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Netanyahu said in response to reporters who had asked him why he wanted a law to deploy cameras at polling stations, “I ask, why are you opposed to them all of a sudden? Cameras will prevent the elections from being stolen. Gantz and Lapid are preparing petitions against the cameras, and we know why – because they intend to build a coalition with Arab parties. The last thing they want is a true vote count and clean elections.” A Kan News report Sunday said that internal polls by the Likud show that 70% of Israelis are in favor of deploying cameras.

The bill is set be presented to the Ministerial Law Committee Sunday by Justice Minister Amir Ohana. Once the law is approved by ministers Sunday, it will be on a fast track for approval. The speaker of the Knesset will call an emergency session to discuss the bill, after which it will be approved on its first reading. The bill will then be considered by the relevant Knesset committees, and prepared for its second and third reading. Likud officials said that there would be no problem getting the law passed, as Yisrael Beytenu MKs planned to vote for it, along with the 60 MKs of Netanyahu’s coalition. Speaking to Maariv, Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman said that his party would vote for the bill if it came up for a vote.

It will only be after the law passes that the High Court will consider petitions against it, the court told Blue and White officials Thursday. Presenting a petition against a law that has not yet been passed is “premature,” the court said, urging patience. Besides Mandelblit, the head of the Central Elections Committee, Hanan Meltzer, has come out against the proposal, on the grounds that there was not enough time to train poll workers in how to use the cameras and ensure order at the polls. “The cameras are likely to cause disruptions of the electoral process, and this cannot be allowed to occur,” he wrote.

If the bill does pass and the High Court does not strike it down, the Labor Party will step in to prevent the “intimidation of Netanyahu” of voters in the Arab sector. “Netanyahu does not scare us,” Labor head Amir Peretz wrote in a social media post. “We need thousands of volunteers to stand tough at Arab polling places and ensure that the number of voters increases, and does not fall. Labor will take on Netanyahu and beat him,” he added.