Several thousand Beit Shemesh residents gathered in front of city hall Tuesday
night to protest alleged election fraud and to demand a new mayoral vote,
following numerous reports of irregularities in the municipal elections that
took place last Tuesday.
Incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul of Shas won
reelection by a margin of some 950 votes, but defeated candidate Eli Cohen and
his campaign have demanded an official investigation into what they say was
widespread voting fraud on election day.
“Out of concern for the city,
its future and its character, we are requesting that an investigation be carried
out and completed into the fraud that was conducted in an attempt to subvert the
elections,” Cohen said at the rally.
He added that “we respect all
citizens and we will not have a religious war in Beit Shemesh, but democracy
must be respected.”
Cohen said he would honor the results of an
Several Knesset members were also present at the protests,
including Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon and Knesset Interior Committee
chairwoman Miri Regev, both of Likud Beytenu.
Regev said she would be
holding a hearing on the events and claims surrounding the Beit Shemesh
“Democracy must be done in Beit Shemesh, and only citizens of
Beit Shemesh can elect the next mayor,” she said stridently from the rally
She said the police were looking into the claims but that an
appeal to the courts would also be necessary.
Danon declared that the
protest “is not against haredim, but is in favor of the purity of the electoral
process.” He, too, demanded a formal investigation into the allegations of
“We cannot let fraud decide elections, and we will not abandon
Beit Shemesh or leave you by yourselves,” he vowed. “We will struggle to get
justice, and if needed, will have new elections.”
Yesh Atid MK and Beit
Shemesh resident Rabbi Dov Lipman was present as well and said the
irregularities that had occurred on election day were so severe that they
warranted “new, free and fair elections.”
Tensions are now running
extremely high in the city, with many in the non-haredi community increasingly
angry over what they perceive as a stolen election, and haredi leaders accusing
their opponents of incitement against the ultra- Orthodox community.
Yisrael Eichler of United Torah Judaism said in the Knesset on Monday that
“people who indulged in anti-Semitic incitement for months against the right to
the haredim’s existence in Beit Shemesh have seized upon one problematic ballot
On Monday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended until
October 31 the remand of two men arrested in connection with voter fraud in Beit
Shemesh. Another five men who were arrested on similar charges were released to
One of the men whose remand was extended is the resident of
an apartment in which police discovered 170 identity cards on election
Another 30 ID cards were found in another apartment in the same
Speaking on Army Radio on Tuesday morning, Abutbul said that in
light of the tense situation and following threats he had received, he had been
assigned constant police protection.
The mayor also claimed that he had
received an offer that if he gave the municipal construction portfolio “to the
head of a certain secular party,” the protests against the election would stop.
Abutbul declined to say who had made the offer.
According to haredi news
website Kikar Hashabbat, police questioned the son of a haredi MK on Monday
regarding the issue of voter fraud in the city.