Middle East

Israel Voting Cameras Lowered Arab Turnout, Netanyahu Backers Claim

An Israeli public relations firm aligned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party said it was behind the placement of some 1,200 cameras in predominantly Arab polling stations, and claimed the tactic helped lower Arab voter turnout in the election Tuesday.

The company, Kaizler Inbar, said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that it had worked with Likud not only to distribute the cameras but also to deploy more than 1,300 activists to polling stations.

Arab voter turnout was just over 50 percent, a historically low level, Israeli news outlets reported. But that most likely resulted from several factors, analysts said, including a boycott of the vote by some Arabs over the passage of laws seen as discriminatory and a lack of robust representation.

On Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu was in position to take a fourth consecutive term in office, with nearly all of the votes counted and the rival Blue and White alliance having conceded the race.

Likud claimed that it used the cameras, some of which were concealed, to record evidence of potential voter fraud. The Arab party Hadash-Taal filed a complaint on Tuesday over the use of the cameras, calling it a voter-intimidation tactic.

The Central Elections Committee’s legal counsel said the action was prohibited, and the police confiscated dozens of the cameras.

Kaizler Inbar played off the committee’s ruling on Wednesday, writing in its Facebook post, “Shhhh … Don’t tell anyone. It was us.”

After a “long period of preparations” and a “tight partnership with the best of people in Likud,” the company wrote, it made a contribution to “the most important accomplishments of the right wing bloc.”

Kaizler Inbar is headed by Sagi Kaizler, a former leader of a West Bank settler group. The organization claimed it sent some 1,350 people to Arab polling stations.

Afif Abu Much, 37, a computer engineer and political activist from Baqa al-Gharbiyye, a town bordering the West Bank, said he was not surprised by Likud’s decision to deploy the cameras.

“It is part of our prime minister’s campaign of repression against Arab citizens in Israel,” he said. Among other things, he cited the passage of a law last summer that declared Israel the “nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Mr. Abu Much said Mr. Netanyahu would have been hurt by a large Arab turnout, an assessment shared by analysts. “To beat Netanyahu, you need Arabs,” he said. “Without the Arabs, you cannot send Netanyahu home. He knows that.”

But Mr. Abu Much wasn’t convinced that the cameras were the driving reason for the low Arab turnout. He noted that the Blue and White alliance, seen as the main threat to Likud, had done little to appeal to Arab voters or align itself with Arab parties.

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

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