Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced election day criticism yesterday after activists from his right-wing Likud party brought cameras into polling stations in Arab-majority neighborhoods.
The main Arab party condemned the right-wing Likud party's move while underscoring that Likud cameras intended to "prevent Arab citizens from voting," as reported by The Times of Israel. The Arab-majority Hadash-Taal alliance filed an urgent complaint to the elections committee after videos emerged appearing to show Likud observers being caught with small cameras while working in polling stations. "Netanyahu wants to lower the percentage of Arabs arriving at the polls," one of the alliance's leaders, Ahmed Tibi said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). After police and ballot officials discovered hidden cameras at hundreds of polling stations, the Central Elections Committee yesterday said it was illegal to film voters and voter lists in ballot stations and that only police and committee officials were allowed to examine footage obtained from the stations.
In defiance of criticism, Netanyahu defended his party's action, saying it "ensures clean voting." In the last election in 2015, Netanyahu was heavily criticized for saying on polling day that Israeli Arabs were voting in "droves," a comment he later apologized for.
In an attempt to boost the right-wing turnout in elections, he demonized Israeli Arabs last month in his comments on social media, saying that Israel is "not a state of all its citizens," in a reference to the country's Arab population. He went on to say all citizens, including Arabs, had equal rights, but he referred to a deeply controversial law passed last year declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.
Israeli Arabs, who make up around 17.5 percent of the population are Palestinians who remained on their land after the 1948 creation of Israel. Historical Palestine was taken from the Palestinians in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel. In another attempt to attract far-right votes in yesterday's elections, Netanyahu insisted on his pledge to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected. In an interview Saturday Netanyahu said he plans to annex settlements in the West Bank if re-elected, a dramatic policy shift apparently aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of the tight race. Netanyahu has already promoted Jewish settlement expansion in his four terms as prime minister, but until now refrained from presenting a detailed vision for the West Bank, seen by the Palestinians as the heartland of a future state.
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