Bibi Goes Full GOP, Sends Activists to Polling Stations to Monitor Arab Precincts

KAFIR QASIM, ISRAEL - APRIL 09:  An arab woman casts her ballot in Israel's general elections on April 9, 2019 in the village of Kafir Qasim, Israel.  (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
KAFIR QASIM, ISRAEL - APRIL 09: An arab woman casts her ballot in Israel's general elections on April 9, 2019 in the village of Kafir Qasim, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
April 9, 2019 11:42 a.m.

In recent years we’ve witnessed the increasing ideological marriage of the Israeli Likud and the American GOP. Nor is it just ideological and cultural. There is increasingly transnational cooperation, with longtime Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently intervening in US politics on Republicans’ behalf. But Likud took a big step today adopting more or less wholesale GOP ‘voter fraud’ tactics to suppress minority voters.

Today is election day in Israel, an election the right again seems likely to win by a narrow but decisive margin. But the big story of the day in the Israeli press is Likud sending party activists to Arab majority precincts with hidden cameras to monitor “voter fraud.” The party reportedly distributed 1200 hidden cameras to activists.

The action appears to be clearly against the law and an official at the election authority has ordered Likud to remove the equipment. Police appear to have confiscated at least some of the cameras that were installed by right-wing activists by right-wing activists in polling stations in Arab communities. What’s less clear is whether any of the activists will be charged with a crime. Other reports suggest there has been no determination that the activists committed a criminal act.

Likud is arguing that there’s no a problem because of the cameras aren’t hidden, though it’s not clear to me whether this actually matters or not under Israeli election law. According to the Times of Israel, Likud lawyer Kobi Matza said “The cameras were not hidden, they were out in the open, and were in places where there is a high suspicion of fraud. I get reports from all over the country that our representatives are being kicked out of polling stations in Arab areas … The problem is with those people in the Arab sector. The cameras were intended to preserve the purity of the vote.”

Outside his own polling station, Netanyahu himself declared: “There should be cameras everywhere, not hidden ones.”

According to Ynet, Likud gave its activists pamphlets alleging voter fraud in the Arab community in the previous election in 2015.

The specifics of what happened are still murky. I don’t know Israeli election law as well as I do US election law. But what is most striking is how the actions and rationales are pulled almost wholesale from right-wing US politics; same arguments about combating voter fraud; same solution of sending activists to intimidate members of a minority community at the polls.

The Likud-GOP alliance is truly complete.

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