Atmosphere Heats Up as Election Nears

YERUSHALAYIM -

The frantic run-up to Tuesday’s elections in Israel featured charges of electoral fraud, warnings of violence at the polls, anti-chareidi incitement, emergency meetings, accusations of personal vendettas, and more on Sunday.

United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler expressed concern on Sunday that state elections inspectors might interfere with and delay voting at chareidi polling stations, and demanded that the Election Committee set clear guidelines for the inspectors’ authority.

In an urgent appeal to the deputy chairman of the Election Commission Committee, MK David Bitan (Likud), and UTJ representatives on the committee, Rabbi Eichler warned: “There is a reasonable risk that thousands of supervisors, including anti-chareidi lawyers, will delay the process at chareidi voting stations on grounds of scrutiny,” he was quoted by Arutz Sheva as saying.

“Lawyers know how to delay processes,” Eichler added. “They create long lines in order to tire out [the voters] and send them to the end of the line. We must ensure that the inspectors are not authorized to delay lines since this would clearly be a disruption of the elections.”

The UTJ representatives on the Election Committee responded that the inspectors have no authority to delay voting on any grounds. “The only authority given to them is to video the course of the day at the voting station and nothing else.”

The Democratic Camp warned its activists that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is “preparing to undermine the results of the vote” on election day, Walla news reported.

“We know of preparations by right-wing groups and efforts by unauthorized persons to enter the polling stations. We know there will be attempts to engage in provocations outside the polling stations. Our request for activists is to prepare for a violent election day,” the party claimed. Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz made a similar statement last week, and urged his supporters to remain peaceful.

Meanwhile, the Yamina party held an emergency meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss how to survive the onslaught directed against it by the Likud. Prime Minister Netanyahu said over the weekend that all right-wing voters, including supporters of Yemina and Oztmah Yehudit, should cast their ballots for Likud.

After the meeting, Yemina leader Ayelet Shaked told reporters that Netanyahu intends to turn to the center-left Blue and White party after the elections to form a national unity government, leaving Yemina on the outside.

“Netanyahu never wanted us in his government,” said Shaked. “Each time we had to make special efforts to enter the government. The voters tend to forget Netanyahu’s political history and believe his fake news that [Yamina] can be small and weak … If Yamina is small, the Likud will form a government with the left. Only a large Yamina will pull the government to the right,” she asserted, in an appeal for their supporters to stick with them.

Shaked also responded to reports that Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, had a personal grudge against Shaked and her political colleague, Yamina MK Naftali Bennett, both of whom once worked in Netanyahu’s office as aides.

“You’ve never heard this from me, but it’s the truth. The people around Netanyahu have something against us, and I don’t know why and where this is coming from. This hurts me.”

The Likud was also showing pre-election stress syndrome on Sunday, as Netanyahu canceled his participation in a campaign event in Bat Yam to convene urgent political consultations.

A Likud spokesman said this “follows an in-depth study, received a while ago by Prime Minister Netanyahu, which shows a victory of Lapid and Gantz because of low expected voter turnout in Likud cities compared to left-wing strongholds.”