JERUSALEM – With newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert currently trying to form a government coalition, WorldNetDaily has learned a party that could serve as Olmert’s coalition partner allegedly engaged in massive ballot stuffing, likely impacting its number of parliament seats.
If voter fraud can be established, the entire composition of the new Israeli Knesset and the seats allotted to each party could be altered.
Olmert’s Kadima party this week won by a slim majority the most mandates in the 120-seat Knesset. The leader of the party that wins the most seats becomes prime minister and must form a governing coalition consisting of more than 60 Knesset seats in order to assume power.
Olmert yesterday announced only parties that support his proposed unilateral withdrawal from most of the West Bank can join his government. Most parties that oppose a West Bank withdrawal would likely not be interested in joining Olmert’s coalition.
With all votes officially counted today, Kadima this week won 29 seats, much less than it had anticipated. The leftist Labor Party took 20 seats. The ultra-Orthodox Shas party won 12 seats. Yisroel Beitanu, a new Russian immigrant party, garnered 11 seats. Likud, led by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, took 12. The nationalist bloc won nine. The retirees Pensioners party garnered seven. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism took six. The ultra-leftist Meretz party took five. And Israeli Arab parties, which tend to make decisions together, won a combined nine seats.
Kadima’s most likely option is to form a leftist coalition with Labor, Meretz and the Pensioners party, giving Olmert a total the 61 needed seats. But Olmert would need other parties to establish a stable government.
The nationalist parties and Likud, which strongly oppose a West Bank withdrawal, are likely not willing to join.
While Yisroel Beitanu leaders have said they may join Olmert’s government under certain conditions, sources close to its leader Avigdor Lieberman say the party wants to remain in the opposition. Lieberman largely opposes unilateral withdrawals.
The ultra-Orthodox parties may join Olmert’s government if certain economic conditions are met.
And Olmert might add the Arab bloc’s nine seats to his coalition.
But several local election committee sources told WorldNetDaily they witnessed massive ballot stuffing by the United Arab List, which won three of the nine Arab Knesset seats. They said they are also aware of ballot stuffing by the UAL in over 90 villages in the Israeli Negev desert – the party’s stronghold – likely resulting in the winning of the UAL’s three seats.
If voter fraud is proven, Israeli election rules could lower the UAL’s number of Knesset seats or throw the party out of the Knesset entirely. Both scenarios would result in a redistribution of Knesset seats to other parties, changing the current make up of the Israeli Knesset.
The UAL in 1992 and 1996 also was charged with ballot fraud.
Arab party allegedly stuffs ballots
In Israel, each voter takes an envelope behind a curtained booth and stuffs it privately with the ticket of one party of choice. The voter then exits the booth and slips the envelope into a ballot box monitored by a local election committee.
This week’s election was the lowest voter turnout in Israeli history, with just 63.2 percent of those eligible voting. Ballots opened in some Israeli locations at 7 a.m. and closed nationally at 10 p.m.
The Negev is home to large Bedouin Arab towns and villages that constitute many of UAL’s voters.
According to several local election committee sources, voter turnout in most Arab Negev villages by 9 p.m. was between 10 and 20 percent. But then after 9 p.m., the turnout jumped in over 30 Arab Negev villages to between 70 and 90 percent with the increase in votes favoring UAL.
Sources in political parties operating in the Negev told WND they witnessed massive ballot stuffing by UAL members after 9 p.m..
“[UAL members] crossed off voters names and began stuffing ballots with United Arab List tickets,” said one Negev source present in a Bedouin village.
“It was surrealistic. There was full collaboration from the representatives of all [Arab] parties who there,” said an election inspector from the Meretz party who was present in the Negev’s Al-Hawashleh village.
Election sources in the villages of Abu Kureinat, Abu Rukeik, Abu Rubeia, and Tarabin alleged ballot stuffing. Voter turnout in those villages – like more than 30 others – dramatically rose after 9 p.m. The UAL won the villages by over 70 percent.
The Meretz election inspector said it would be “easy” for Israeli election overseers to investigate certain villages because he was aware of several cases in which reports were drafted by local officials of “unusual voter patterns,” including the same veiled women allegedly voting several times.
Israel’s Elections Committee Chairman Judge Dorit Beinish this afternoon was asked to investigate several possible cases of voter fraud involving the UAL in small voting districts near the coastal town of Netanya. Those districts have Jewish election committee members.
But as of this publication, no complaints are pending regarding the Negev villages, which are largely overseen by Arab election officials and where most ballot stuffing allegedly took place.
Composition of Knesset could change
George Birnbaum, an Israeli political consultant and elections expert, told WND if UAL is found to have stuffed their ballots it could affect the party’s number of seats.
“It depends on the end result of the official count after any investigation. The elections committee could throw out a lot of votes,” said Birnbaum.
Because the Knesset has a minimum allowance of two parliament seats per party, if the ballot stuffing drops UAL below the two=seat threshold, the entire party would be disqualified from the Knesset.
“This would mean the 3 UAL seats would be redistributed to the other Knesset parties,” said Birnbaum. “It could also change the overall number of votes that would make up the equivalent of one Knesset seat since the total votes in the country would be lowered.”
Currently, about 60,000 votes would gain a party two seats.
Former Likud Knesset Member Uzi Landau told WND the alleged UAL ballot stuffing “is very significant in that it would likely give another seat here and there to other parties. Still it would not change the overall dynamics of the Knesset. Kadima will be in first place with Labor in second.”
Birnbaum said any vote redistribution would likely favor the larger parties, but could also give another mandate to Likud, Shas or Yisroel Beitanu.
After Olmert forges a coalition, he is expected to push ahead with his plan of withdrawing from most of the West Bank, which is within rocket-firing range of Jerusalem and which military strategists long have estimated Israel must maintain to defend its borders from any ground invasion.
Last week, just days before the elections, the Kadima Party revealed it would divide Jerusalem and allow a Palestinian state to be established in parts of Israel’s “eternal capital.”
“The Old City, Mount Scopus, the Mount of Olives, the City of David, Sheikh Jarra will remain in our hands, but [regarding] Kafr Akeb, Abu-Ram, Shuafat, Hizma, Abu-Zaim, Abu-Tur, Abu Dis, in the future, when the Palestinian state is established, they will become its capital,” said Otniel Schneller, a Kadima member who represented the party at an official debate last week on dividing Jerusalem.
The revelation followed months of denials by top Kadima officials that the party would advocate withdrawing from Jerusalem.
The neighborhoods Schneller listed are located on Jerusalem’s periphery, near the city’s border with the West Bank.
Kadima’s claims last week of “only” withdrawing from peripheral sections of Jerusalem worry many here. The Israeli government has denied previous withdrawal plans only to carry them out later, followed by announcements of more withdrawals in larger magnitudes from areas it pledged not to vacate.
Arabic-English translation of interviews with election sources by Ali Waked.