Israeli Elections: Netanyahu Activists Hide Cameras in Shirts to Film Arab Voters, Complaint Reveals

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's party has reportedly used more than 1,000 hidden cameras in polling stations in Arab-majority areas to record Arab Israelis as they choose their next leader, according to a complaint from opposition parties.

Israeli news site Ynet reported that about 1,300 cameras were hidden in clothes worn by election observers loyal to Netanyahu's center-right Likud party. The Times of Israel noted they claimed to be tracking possible voter fraud.

The cameras were revealed after the Hadash-Ta'al list—an alliance between the far-left Hadash Party and Arab nationalist Ta'al Party—filed a complaint. Although cameras are allowed to be used at polling stations in exceptional circumstances where fraud is suspected, the Central Elections Committee has instructed that their use cannot be routine.

Hadash-Ta'al requested the immediate removal of the cameras. Police are confiscating the equipment, Ynet said. Haaretz reporter Noa Landau tweeted a video of one of those held by police, noting the culprits said they were sent by Likud.

The Arab nationalist Balad list also condemned the use of the cameras. Chairman Jamal Zahalka said their installation was an "illegal move designed to scare voters and discourage them from voting."

Challenged by reporters over the hidden cameras, Netanyahu said they were necessary to "ensure a fair vote," The Times of Israel noted. Even though the Central Elections declared they were "forbidden," Netanyahu added, "There should be cameras everywhere, not hidden ones."

Tuesday's election has been cast as a referendum on the continued premiership of Netanyahu, who is hoping to secure his fifth term in office and add to his uninterrupted 10-year spell in power.

He has overseen a rightward shift of Likud and Israeli politics more generally, allying himself with far-right nationalist parties in a bid to secure a coalition within the Knesset that can command a majority. Such parties have called for the annexation of all Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the explusion of Arab Israelis who are not considered loyal to the nation.

Netanyahu also shepherded the nation state law into being. The controversial legislation stated that only Jews had the right to self-determination in the country, downgraded the status of the Arabic language and declared Jerusalem to be Israel's "united" capital.

More than 6 million people are eligible to vote Tuesday at about 10,000 polling stations. Polls will close at 10 p.m. local time (3 p.m. EDT). The latest predictions put Netanyahu's right-wing coalition either level with or just behind main challenger Benny Gantz, the former Israel Defense Forces general who leads the Blue and White coalition.

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An Israeli Arab woman casts her vote during Israel's parliamentary elections on April 9 in in the northern Israeli town of Taiyiba. AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images
Israeli Elections: Netanyahu Activists Hide Cameras in Shirts to Film Arab Voters, Complaint Reveals | World