Netanyahu continues push for Russian vote

Likud increases spending on cameras in Arab sector.

By
July 30, 2019 22:11
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian-speaking immigrants to Israel in a Rishon Lezio

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian-speaking immigrants to Israel in a Rishon Lezion pub. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued his efforts to reach out to the 1.3 million Russian-speaking Israelis on Tuesday by meeting bloggers and “influencers” from the sector in a Rishon Lezion pub.

The event countered a rally held at the same time by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman in Tel Aviv.

“Liberman wants Benny Gantz as prime minister,” Netanyahu said. “If you vote for Liberman, you are essentially voting for a left-wing government with Ehud Barak as defense minister and Yair Lapid as foreign minister. For those who want to ensure a right-wing government, only a strong Likud can prevent a left-wing government.”

Likud has invested an estimated NIS 5 million in pursuing Russian-speaking voters after spending zero ahead of the April 9 election. The party has estimated that Russian-speaking immigrants could be worth as many as 15 seats.

Netanyahu made a point of greeting a plane full of 121 Ukrainian immigrants who arrived on Sunday, the last day for people to move Israel and be eligible to vote. The flight was delayed by four hours so he could greet the immigrants and talk to them on the plane before they deplaned.

A source on the plane said that many of the immigrants had fled the Russian-Ukrainian war, were far removed from their Jewish heritage and had never heard of Netanyahu.

The source reported that when Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud) addressed the immigrants, he made a mistake in Russian and made the crowd laugh at him.

The Likud intends to continue to host events for Russian speakers in the weeks ahead.

Another priority for the Likud’s campaign is placing cameras in Arab voting stations on Election Day. Channel 13 reported that the Likud asked the head of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer, for a letter explaining what the Likud activists in the Arab polling stations can and cannot do legally, so they will have the letter with them to display if their presence is questioned on Election Day.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg appealed to Melcer, asking him to limit the Likud’s efforts in the Arab sector, saying that the cameras discourage Arab voter turnout. Less than half of Arab-Israelis voted in the April 2019 election.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak also condemned the Likud’s initiative and vowed to take action to ensure that every Arab voter can exercise his right to vote freely.

“The suspect from Balfour Street is sending bullies with cameras to scare Arab voters in polling stations,” he said. “No matter what he wants, the citizens of Israel will go out to vote whether they are Jewish, Arab or Druze, and he will find himself kicked out of the official residence of the prime minister.”


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