High Court to Blue and White: Cameras bill only be aborted after it is law

Netanyahu’s goal is to pass the bill in an unusual fast-track process prior to the September 17 elections, so that the Likud can deploy activists to videotape the polling booths.

September 6, 2019 01:37
2 minute read.
Israeli Arab voting

An Israeli-Arab father casts a ballot together with his children, as Israelis vote in a parliamentary election, at a polling station in Umm al-Fahm, Israel April 9, 2019. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

The High Court of Justice rejected the Blue and White Party’s petition to freeze the Likud’s bill to legalize videotaping polling booths on Election Day even before it 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.

Despite objections to the bill by Central Elections Committee chairman and High Court vice president Hanan Melcer and by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would move ahead with the bill.

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 the polling booths.

The Likud videotaped Arab sector polling booths 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.

One aspect of the bill and the process that Blue and White objects to is 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 that 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’s committee chairman.

The Likud attacked Blue and White asking, “What do [Yair] Lapid and [Benny] 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 the 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 gotten 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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