Central Elections Committee to debate banning Otzma Yehudit, Balad

Anger continues to grow over possible entry of Otzma Yehudit members into the Knesset.

March 6, 2019 11:14
3 minute read.
Itamar Ben Gvir

A policeman arrests Israeli right-wing activist Itamar Ben Gvir during a 'Peace Now' demonstration in Jerusalem. (photo credit: GALI TIBBON / AFP)


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The Central Elections Committee will hold a debate and vote on whether to ban Otzma Yehudit’s candidates from running in the upcoming election, after Meretz gathered the requisite signatures for their petition on Tuesday.

Likud responded to the petition with one of its own, calling to ban Balad.

The viability of the petition against Otzma is unclear, as it would have to be approved by a majority of Central Elections Committee members. Of the parties that responded on Tuesday, there was one more vote against the ban, rather than in favor, but still three unknown votes.

Yesh Atid, one of the parties making up the Blue and White Party, joined the petition, saying their “decision is a result of Yesh Atid’s commitment to do everything in its power to prevent the entry of [Rabbi Meir] Kahane’s followers into the Knesset.”

Parties can be disqualified from running in an election if they reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incite to racism, or if they support armed conflict by an enemy state or terrorist organizations against Israel. The Central Elections Committee votes on whether to ban the parties or not, and banned parties may appeal to the Supreme Court. In recent years, the court has overturned all bans.

Otzma Yehudit, which means “Jewish power,” is a party led by students of Meir Kahane, who’s Kach Party was banned by the Supreme Court from running in elections on grounds of racist incitement. The petition led by Labor MK Stav Shaffir and Meretz is based on Otzma candidates Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir having been members of Kach the organization, and arguing they incite against Israeli Arabs.

Ben-Ari and Ben-Gvir are running with the United Right-Wing Parties (URP), which also includes Bayit Yehudi and National Union.

With the addition of Yesh Atid to Labor, Meretz and the Joint List, the petition reached the necessary 12 signatures to hold a debate and vote on banning Otzma. Other parties that plan to vote in favor of disqualifying Otzma are Hatnua and Ta’al, bringing the vote to 15. Likud, Bayit Yehudi, Shas, UTJ, Yisrael Beytenu and New Right plan to oppose the ban, a total of 16 votes. Kulanu did not have an answer yet, and they make up another three votes.

“We’re thankful to all the parties that joined us,” Meretz said. “A terrorist organization has no place in the Knesset.”

Otzma said that Blue and White joining the opposition to them running proves that they are “not only hypocrites, but left-wing.”

In response to the petition from the Left, Likud began gathering signatures to hold a vote to ban Balad’s candidates.

Past petitions against Balad have argued they support terrorist organizations and reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, who is not running for reelection, has said she rejects the idea of a Jewish state and expressed support for Hamas during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Former Balad MK Basel Ghattas was convicted last year for smuggling phones to terrorists in prison. Balad founder Azmi Bishara is a fugitive from justice who fled Israel after being caught giving Hezbollah information about where its rockets landed during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Yesh Atid also plans to support the petition to ban Balad.

Balad responded that they are “here to stay,” and called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the new priest of the Kahanists.”

They accused Netanyahu of being a “serial inciter against Arab citizens of the state, who tries with all his might to maintain his rule before he is convicted and sent to prison.”

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