A-G to lobby cabinet against cameras bill

Liberman may also tank legislation in Knesset

By
September 7, 2019 23:42
A-G to lobby cabinet against cameras bill

Time to decide who to vote for again . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said he will be specially attending the cabinet meeting on Sunday, which is set to vote on the cameras bill, in one last try to block it.

On Friday, Mandelblit gave a speech doubling down on his opposition to the cameras bill in its current form, as well as its intended timing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s goal is to pass the bill in an unusual fast-track process prior to the September 17 election so that the Likud can deploy activists to videotape polling booths in the Arab sector.

Despite previous loud objections to the bill by Mandelblit and Central Elections Committee chairman and High Court Deputy Chief Justice Hanan Melcer, Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would move ahead with the bill.

Likud supporters videotaped polling booths in Arab towns and cities during the April election.

When confronted with the issue, Melcer ruled that the Likud could not carry out the videotaping again under the current legal framework, but he left room for the idea that a new law legalizing the videotaping could theoretically be passed.

Mandelblit concurred with Melcer earlier this week and then slammed the bill again on Friday, suggesting that democracy is not functioning properly when the government is ready to move ahead with a bill, despite the attorney-general’s objection that the bill is illegal.

On Friday, Mandelblit said that after Melcer had ruled unambiguously that passing the current bill this close to Election Day would create chaos and undermine the integrity of the elections, it was unthinkable to entertain moving forward with the bill.

Rather, he said that a bill addressing the issue could be put together late to address future elections, after a comprehensive review and without such intense time pressure.

If the bill is passed into law, the issue will likely be resolved by the High Court of Justice days before the election.

Meanwhile, the bill seemed unlikely to garner the political support it needed to make any progress in the Knesset.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman called the bill “a gimmick for Netanyahu to motivate his voters.”

Liberman said he will only support the cameras bill if it is passed together with a law making voting mandatory.

“I support cameras at [polling stations in majority] haredi [ultra-Orthodox] areas, but we also need mandatory voting,” Liberman said on Channel 12’s Meet the Press.

Netanyahu responded on Twitter that “Liberman chose to stand with [Joint List MKs] Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi and oppose our request to put cameras in the polling stations. That is further proof that Liberman decided to do everything to topple Likud and Netanyahu, in a new alliance with Lapid and Gantz.”

Likud’s spokesman echoed that “now it is clear beyond all doubt that Liberman is working to bring a victory for [Blue and White leaders Yair] Lapid and [Benny] Gantz. After he said he’d agree to the cameras bill, tonight he is setting an impossible condition and in practicality, going back on his decision to support the cameras bill.”

On Friday, on his way back from London, Netanyahu said “setting up cameras prevents election theft.

“Gantz and Lapid petitioned the court against setting up cameras. You know why,” Netanyahu said. “They said they want to make a coalition, a left-wing government with [Joint List MKs] Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh who will be ministers in their government. The last thing they want is a real vote count and integrity in the election.”

Labor-Gesher announced plans on Saturday to have activists stationed at polling stations in majority-Arab towns to try to stop Likud activists from filming.

On Thursday, the High Court had already rejected Blue and White’s petition to freeze the cameras bill before it even comes law, while leaving the door open to blocking it later.

Essentially, the High Court said on Thursday that nearly all petitions against bills that had not passed – and the current bill was included – are premature, and parties must wait until bills become law.

The High Court was clear that it would give Blue and White a chance to block the law from going into effect after it passes, assuming it passes.

One aspect of the bill and the process that Blue and White objected to was the idea that there are only nine days to debate the bill.

Blue and White’s petition to the High Court, filed on Wednesday, said that 21 days is normally the minimum amount of time to debate a bill in order to give sufficient attention to the complexities that can arise from new legislation.

Their petition to the High Court said the fast-tracking was unconstitutional, and that there would be no way to implement the bill properly and without impinging on voters’ rights given the small time frame until Election Day.

Melcer did not sit on the High Court panel that heard the petition, since he is involved as the election committee’s chairman.

Likud attacked Blue and White asking, “What do Lapid and Gantz have to hide? Why do they object to a basic step toward guarding the purity of elections and toward preventing massive forgeries at the polling booths?”

Netanyahu and Likud have charged that there was significant fraud and forgery in the Arab sector in the last election, and that if the fraudulent votes were canceled – or for the coming election, if the fraud is prevented – the UAL-Balad Party would not have made it into the Knesset. They claim that voter fraud in the Arab sector must be recorded and deterred through videotaping, since every vote could be decisive.

Blue and White, Melcer and Mandelblit have all made varying arguments that the new bill is a blunt instrument to deter Arabs from voting under the guise of preventing voter fraud, and that more time is needed to strike the proper balance between purity of elections and protecting voters’ civil rights.


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