The state, Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul and his mayoral challenger Eli Cohen
on Wednesday all filed their final legal pleadings with the Jerusalem District
Court in a case which will determine whether October’s election results stand or
whether the court orders an unprecedented new vote due to allegations of massive
A decision is expected imminently.
On December 10, the
state suffered potential setbacks in its appeal to overturn the recent Beit
Shemesh mayoral election, when the three-judge panel of the Jerusalem District
Court issued an interim order.
The appeal pits Attorney- General Yehuda
Weinstein and Cohen against Abutbul and members of the city council affiliated
with him, in a battle over whether Beit Shemesh should hold a new
While the state and Cohen may still win the appeal, the
setbacks have included the court ordering the state to give the exact number of
proven fraudulent votes that the state would consider a threshold for mandating
overturning the election.
Abutbul won the race by a razor-thin margin of
The court also issued an order to give Abutbul’s side secret
evidence the state had held back, within 48 hours.
The court demanded
that the state provide its response regarding the fraudulent-vote threshold by
midday on Wednesday, and suggested it might render a decision late Wednesday
The interim decision constituted a potential setback because the
state and Cohen’s lawyer had tried to convince the court that exact number of
fraudulent votes was less important than the fact that unprecedented allegations
of widespread, coordinated and systematic fraud had led to the appeal, according
The state’s argument has been that because the hearing was
on an administrative issue, not a criminal one, it did not need to meet as high
a level of proof.
It has implied that the significant arrests and stories
suggesting that at least several hundred votes were fraudulent endangered the
faith of Beit Shemesh residents enough that their democratic rights were being
trampled and that a new election should be ordered.
Pressed by the court
several times about whether the number of fraudulent votes was high enough
mathematically to overturn the election, the state said that it believed it
However, the state stressed that regardless of the math, the
widespread nature of the fraud and the importance of shoring up the voters’
faith that their democratic voting rights were not being abused were in and of
In the written appeal, Weinstein said that the “severe
deficiencies” in the election, in light of Abutbul’s extremely close margin of
victory, made it clear that the plan had been to affect the outcome.
noted that even before the current, deeper investigation, 828 votes had been
disqualified in the initial electoral count as problematic, showing that the
volume of the fraud was considerable.
In his appeal to the court,
Weinstein mentioned two police busts of centers for voter fraud. One center had
been producing at least 62 fraudulent voter registrations (based on the number
of identity cards recovered), and the other had been producing 99, of which 36
identity cards had already been used to cast fraudulent votes.
suspected central player in the fraud said that he knew of a “target” goal of
paying between 1,000 and 1,700 “enthusiasts” to vote in favor of Abutbul and his
party’s slate, said Weinstein.
Another suspect recalled overhearing that
another participant in the fraud possessed a bag holding 500 identity cards for
illegal voting, Weinstein continued.
Cohen’s lawyer concurred with the
state, but took an even more aggressive stance, stating that “math does not
capture by itself the fraud committed and the damage to democracy in Beit
He added that on election day, there had been intimidation and
“terror in the streets against supporters of Cohen.”
In response, the
court again pushed back, asking Cohen to focus on concrete numbers of votes
that, if invalidated, would be sufficient to overturn the election
Attorney Jacob Weinroth, representing Abutbul, thundered away at
the state and Cohen, saying that “this case is about evidence, not
Weinroth declared that “there is no real evidence in this
case,” calling the state’s evidence “hearsay” and satirizing the evidence as a
string of rumors and conversations between several people that could not prove
anything in a courtroom.
He slammed the state for allegedly “concealing”
evidence, as though “this [were] a detention proceeding,” implying that the
state was treating Abutbul like a security detainee.
Weinroth quoted case
law that he said proved that the court must judge the evidence in the case
according to the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard used in criminal
Further, he rejected what he called “insinuations” of wrongdoing
(without formal accusations) against Abutbul individually.
In his appeal,
Weinstein had said the police had found paraphernalia at least ideologically
linking the fraud operations with assisting Abutbul’s campaign and his party’s
slate for city council.
Moreover, the attorney-general said one of
Abutbul’s campaign advisers had received text messages indicating his likely
knowledge and involvement in the scheme.
The state’s final pleading
appended an affidavit from Irit Ram, a top official in the Interior Ministry
dealing with the municipal elections. The statement indicated the lowest numbers
of votes that would need to be disqualified in order to alter the
Scenarios discussed in the statement mentioned a 50-vote
difference, a 650-vote difference and a 1,398-vote difference for affecting the
overall constellation of the parties on the Beit Shemesh City
The statement did not discuss the number of votes for altering
the mayoral election, as that was already established at 956.
spokesman stuck to Cohen’s position that the exact numbers were so far from what
they would have been in a fair election, since the fraud and intimidation by
Abutbul’s supporters were so widespread, that the current voting numbers were
completely distorted and irrelevant.