Israeli PM’s bid to place cameras at polling stations fails

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump are depicted in Netanyahu's Likud party election campaign banner in Tel Aviv, Israel September 9, 2019. The words in Hebrew read, "Netanyahu, a different league." (Reuters)
Updated 09 September 2019

Israeli PM’s bid to place cameras at polling stations fails

  • Netanyahu had sought to pass the controversial legislation after he accused his opponents of conspiring to “steal” the election

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed on Monday in his eleventh hour bid to legislate that cameras be installed in polling stations to prevent what his supporters claim is voting fraud in Arab districts.
After a stormy session, a parliamentary committee voted it down before it reached the plenum with Netanyahu’s backers deadlocked with his opponents.
The deciding, dissenting vote was cast by a representative of former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, an ally-turned-rival of Netanyahu who forced Israel’s unprecedented second election of the year and is poised to be the kingmaker again in the vote.
With just a week to go to the repeat election, Netanyahu had sought to pass the controversial legislation amid a scorched earth campaign in which he’s accused his opponents of conspiring to “steal” the election.
Netanyahu responded to the setback by slamming the opposition.
“There is no reason for those who really care about the integrity of the election to object to the camera law, which prevents forgeries,” he said in a video message to his followers. “There is only one answer to this: Turn out in masses at the ballot box.”
Netanyahu insists the proposal was a matter of transparency, but it drew renewed accusations that he was promoting racism and incitement against the country’s Arab minority. Critics also said he was preemptively claiming to be a victim of electoral fraud as an alibi, in case he loses.
Mordechai Kremnitzer, a constitutional law expert, wrote in the Haaretz daily that the bill amounted to pointing a “gun at Israeli democracy’s head.”
With his career on the line, Netanyahu has increasingly been embracing some tactics of President Donald Trump. Netanyahu routinely lashes out at the media, the judiciary, the police and his political opponents, claiming there is a conspiracy of “elites” to oust him.
In a Facebook video Sunday, Netanyahu hinted that Arab forgery prevented him from winning the April vote. Netanyahu’s hard-line Likud Party had sent out campaign workers on election day to videotape Arab voters entering polling stations, claiming they were preventing fraud.
A Likud-linked PR agency that spearheaded the campaign later boasted it had helped suppress Arab turnout, while Arab leaders accused Likud of trying to intimidate voters. Israel’s Central Election Commission banned the practice this time around and the fast-tracked legislation was supposed to override that ruling.
Adalah, a legal rights group for Arab minority rights, said even without passing the proposed bill it “has already caused harm by injecting bald-faced lies into the public political discourse under the premise of preserving the ‘purity of elections.’“
Stifling Netanyahu once again was his nemesis Lieberman, who said any monitoring should be operated by election officials and not “Netanyahu’s private militia.”
Lieberman, who was once Netanyahu’s chief of staff and a staunch partner, has emerged as his chief rival and critic. He passed up the post of defense minister in Netanyahu’s government following April’s election, claiming the new coalition would give excessive influence to ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. The dispute left the prime minister without a parliamentary majority and forced the Sept. 17 do-over vote.
Opinion polls show Likud in a neck-and-neck race with the main challenger, the centrist Blue and White party, with neither side able to secure an outright majority without the support of Lieberman’s party. Lieberman is pressing for a unity government between the two parties, but Netanyahu claims the real goal is to oust him from office.

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 16 September 2019

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.


Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.

Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 


Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.