Israel's Shin Bet warns of Russian interference in November elections: report

Israel's Shin Bet warns of Russian interference in November elections: report
Amid tensions since the Ukraine war started early this year, Israel has reportedly told Russia not to meddle in its elections scheduled for next month.
2 min read
08 October, 2022
Relations between Israel and Russia have been unsteady since the start of the Ukraine war [Getty]

Israel has asked Russia not to interfere in its upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for November 1, Israeli media reported, amid tensions between the two countries.

Israel's Channel 12 TV reported that Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, has reportedly asked Russia to stay out of forthcoming Knesset elections in an official letter to Russian intelligence.

These are the fifth Israeli legislative elections to be held in three years.

"Intelligence assessments based on information and data do not rule out foreign interference in the elections," the Channel 12 report said, adding that Shin Bet warned Israeli officials of possible Russian intervention that would influence voters one way or another.

Tensions have simmered between Israel and Russia since the latter’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

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In May, Russia claimed Israeli mercenaries were fighting alongside the far-right Azov Regiment in Ukraine.

This came shortly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "Hitler had Jewish blood," causing Israel  to demand an apology from Moscow, which President Vladimir Putin later gave.

Then in late July, Russia’s Ministry of Justice ordered the Jewish Agency – the organisation tasked with encouraging and processing Jewish immigration to Israel - to cease all operations in the Russian Federation.

Analysts have said this was the lowest point in Russian-Israeli relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union

Shin Bet allegedly thwarted an attempt by regional foe Iran to meddle in the elections, according to the Channel 12 report, which came in the form of "messages aimed to manipulate public discourse in Israel."

It also conducted a large simulation of possible external interference by sending fake electronic messages, and training on how to monitor and block them.

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The security service also warned of polarization of public discourse in Israel in the run-up to the elections, pointing to incitement between rival electoral camps. 

It said this could become "fertile ground for foreign interference, which will try to influence the will and opinion of the voter, and therefore voters should be very careful, verify the information received, and not publish messages and publications related to the elections unconsciously."

The November ballot will see veteran Benjamin Netanyahu leading a bloc of right-wing and far-right ultra-religious parties against centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid who is leading a far more fragmented camp, spanning left to right.