Daily Israel Report

A-G Urges Rejection of Beit Shemesh Appeal

Attorney General calls to reject appeals against new elections. Weinstein: Appeal argues facts – not legal precedent.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 1/21/2014, 5:22 PM

Abutbul (right) and Cohen in the court
Abutbul (right) and Cohen in the court
Flash 90

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein continues to show support for repeat elections in the city of Beit Shemesh. Weinstein filed a request to the Supreme Court on Tuesday asking that it turn down two requests to appeal against a lower court’s decision to order a redo of the elections.

A Jerusalem Court ruled that Beit Shemesh must hold new elections due to allegations of widespread fraud on elections day. 

Incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbul, who was initially considered the victor in the close elections race, has filed a request asking to be allowed to appeal in court. Representatives of hareidi-religious political factions in the city filed a similar request.

Weinstein reiterated arguments that the scope of the planned elections fraud revealed in Beit Shemesh on elections day was such that fraud may have determined the results of the close elections race.

He also challenged Abutbul’s request to appeal. The request is based on arguments regarding the facts of the case, he said, when legally, it should be based on the law and legal precedent instead. While Abutbul’s request was based in part on arguments regarding legal precedent, those arguments were incorrect, Weinstein stated.

Cohen: Abutbul wants religious war
The elections in Beit Shemesh were perceived by many as a referendum on the city’s religious future, with Abutbul representing the hareidi-religious community and challenger Eli Cohen representing a secular- and religious-Zionist platform.

Arguments over the validity of the elections have also focused heavily on religious identity. In their appeal against the call to redo elections, Abutbul’s attorneys argued that the elections saga has been used unfairly to condemn the hareidi community.

Abutbul has said that his appeal would be intended “to remove the blemish and moral cloud from over an entire community that has been made out to be ‘fraudsters,’ and has no legal means by which to defend its good name."

“This is an untrue stigma, and the Supreme Court would do well by restoring things to the proper proportion, and bringing Beit Shemesh residents the peace and quiet they have been hoping for,” he argued.

Eli Cohen, however, accused, “Abutbul and his people want a religious war. They’re fueling the flames, the hate, trying to create a feud between brothers. This is his attempt to survive, and to turn the public’s attention from fraud committed by parties that supported him to an ugly religious war.”