Elite Israeli police have begun questioning a number of men linked to the Sefardi haredi mayor of Beit Shemesh, Rabbi Moshe Abutbul of the Shas Party. The men are believed to have played roles in massive voter fraud on behalf of Abutbol that allegedly plagued the election held earlier this month.
Last updated at 1:52 pm CST
Elite Police Unit Takes Charge Of Alleged Haredi Beit Shemesh Election Fraud Investigation
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Elite Israeli police have begun questioning a number of men linked to the Sefardi haredi mayor of Beit Shemesh, Rabbi Moshe Abutbul of the Shas Party. The men are believed to have played roles in massive voter fraud on behalf of Abutbol that allegedly plagued the election held earlier this month, Ynet reported.
Abutbul won re-election by less than 1,000 votes.
However, police seized about 200 falsely obtained or forged IDs and disguises and arrested at least haredi men found with them on election day. Additionally, there many reports of people going to the polls to vote only to find that they had already ‘voted’ – presumably, Abutbol’s men had done that earlier ‘voting,’ illegally using the identities of local residents.
Among those haredim arrested or being questioned are members of leading Ashkeanzi haredi families, including at least one son of Mk Rabbi Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) who was reportedly released after being questioned.
Election lists from previous elections were reportedly studied by Shaya Brand, an associate of Abutbol's who was arrested last week, and other of Abutbol's men who then obtained the IDs of residents who did not vote previously, usually because it is considered too "Zionist" to vote. These non-voters were then paid as much as $56 each for their use. Abutbol supporters allegedly then used those IDs to cast extra votes for Abutbol.
About 1,000 Beit Shemesh residents protested last Tuesday for the second time in a week, demanding that the election fraud be investigated and prosecuted.
Along with several other members of Knesset from various political parties, Labor Party MK Moshe Mizrahi, the former Head the Investigative Branch of the Israel Police, spoke at that protest.
“This is not how elections are supposed to look. It's a gunshot fired against democracy, and you cannot buy victory. This case is pivotal. We can't leave [the case] open,” Mizrahi reportedly said.
The initial investigation was conducted by the Jerusalem District Police, but was quickly transferred to the elite Lahav 433 unit that investigates national crimes and corruption.
Sources close to the Zionist Orthodox and secular endorsed candidate Eli Cohen, who finished a close second to Abutbol, reportedly see the transfer the investigation to Lahav 433 and the gag order assigned to the case as affirmation from police that the fraud did actually take place. They hope the investigation will lead to the annulment of the election results.
The Cohen sources also reportedly said that dozens of Beit Shemesh residents testified to police about fraud and other related voting problems.
Many secular and Zionist Orthodox Beit Shemesh residents, angered by years of what they say is Abutbol's corruption and anti-secular/anti-Zionist Orthodox discrimination, have begun a movement to campaign to divide the city into two smaller municipalities, one haredi one not.
Haredim oppose the move, largely because it would leave the new haredi municipality with an insufficient tax base because so few haredim work and pay taxes.