Yisrael Beytenu files CEC complaint over alleged attacks, intimidation at Arab voting stations

Joint (Arab) List denies allegations, says Lieberman is spreading lies to incite racism, discord; Police investigating claims.

March 17, 2015 16:32
4 minute read.
Avigdor Liberman

Avigdor Liberman votes in general elections. (photo credit: COURTESY YISRAEL BEYTENU)

Election Day didn’t pass as smoothly as possible, as reports of violence, intimidation and fraud across the country piled up as Tuesday progressed.

Yisrael Beytenu filed a complaint with the Central Elections Committee saying representatives of the party were physically attacked by Arabs at a voting station in Nazareth and blocked from entering three other primarily Arab voting areas in the country.

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According to the complaint, several of the party’s representatives were assaulted at a Nazareth voting facility upon attempting to enter the area, while other representatives were prevented from entering voting stations in Baka al-Gharbiya, Kafr Kara and Sakhnin.

“Yisrael Beytenu strongly condemns the repeated attempts to rig the election in the Arab sector,” the complaint stated, adding that preventing Yisrael Beytenu members from entering the voting facilities jeopardized the “integrity of election in Arab villages.”

Yisrael Beytenu candidate Ashley Perry said he believed the alleged attacks and intimidation resulted from Arab opposition to party candidate Shadi Halul, a Christian who has been outspoken about Arameans and other Christians being integrated into society and serving in the IDF.

“[Halul] represents greater integration and cooperation with Israel, and some Islamist extremists in those communities want to reject that cooperation and integration,” Perry said shortly after the complaint was filed.

Halul, who served as an IDF paratrooper and founded the Aramaic Christian Association in Israel seven years ago with the goal of the state officially recognizing the Aramean people, recently said that the “Arab parties do not represent me; they do not represent any Christian citizen.”

In response to Yisrael Beytenu’s complaint, the Joint (Arab) List issued a scathing statement, accusing Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman of racial incitement.

“Liberman and his party continue to spread lies and try to incite hatred and despair, but our optimism will win at the ballot box, and lies will not prevent Arab citizens from coming out to vote and influence our fate,” it said. “Our answer to racism and incitement is to become a force at the polls as the third largest party at the Knesset.”

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Tuesday afternoon that he was looking into the allegations.

Meanwhile, incidents of suspected election fraud were reported across the country, with police saying by early evening that they had fielded around 800 complaints nationwide.

Police responded to 235 incidents by early evening, including suspected offenses such as impersonating a voter, theft of voting slips, threatening a poll worker, counterfeiting, and more. Altogether, 23 people were detained and one arrested by Tuesday evening.

In Sderot, police said that a 23-year-old man was arrested after Hatnua MK and former defense minister Amir Peretz issued a complaint to police that the man threatened him while he was at a voting station.

Police in the Coastal District reported four incidents in four cities where voters arrived at polling stations only to see that someone had already voted in their name.

In the January 2013 election, police reported a lower amount of complaints, with dispatch centers and police stations receiving around 400 reports by late afternoon and only a few criminal incidents.

Already on Sunday, police ordered their officers on high alert as part of a nationwide operation to handle the election and the expected security concerns.

The national headquarters of the Israel Police said officers would be backed up by thousands of Border Police officers and volunteer police officers who would patrol more than 10,000 voting stations in 1,282 towns and cities across the country.

The officers focused on the same threats that any major public event faces – preventing a terrorist attack, preventing disturbances, and managing traffic, among others.

Also on Tuesday, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira toured the country’s polling sites with some 100 members of his staff and police to check them for Election Day violations.

The staff members were split into groups to better cover the 19 polling regions, as well as special polling sites that have encountered serious problems, such as army bases, prisons and hospital polling sites.

The comptroller’s office checked for violations of harm to clean elections, proper spreading out of polling sites and their logistical operations, sufficient access to polling sites in specific areas and the manner in which the votes were collected and counted.

Shapira’s office noted that his last report on the issue of clean elections had highlighted substantial defects in improperly permitting the votes of thousands of dead people and overseas Israeli citizens.

The past report also slammed instances where dozens of envelopes containing an unclear number of votes were improperly brought into polling sites, and critiqued the failure to employ sufficient human resources to handle the workload for Election Day.

The comptroller started his tour at the Lod polling sites around 10:30 a.m. and jumped around to several sites, finishing at the Knesset polling site around 5:30 p.m.

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