Haneen Zoabi and Baruch Marzel .
(photo credit: REUTERS,MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) and Yahad candidate Baruch Marzel can run for the Knesset, following the High Court of Justice’s decision on Wednesday once again to override the Central Elections Committee’s disqualification of the two candidates.
The vote was 8-1 in favor of reinstating both Zoabi and Marzel: Supreme Court President Miriam Naor and justices Esther Hayot, Hanan Melcer, Yoram Danziger, Neal Hendel, Uzi Vogelman, Zvi Zilberthal and Yitzhak Amit voted for reinstatement, and Deputy Supreme Court President Elyakim Rubinstein voted against.
The decision was expedited due to the proximity of Election Day, which is on March 17.
Last Thursday, the Central Elections Committee voted 27-6 to disqualify Zoabi from running for the Knesset, but the High Court overturned the vote on Wednesday, just as it did a similar decision ahead of the 2013 election.
The High Court’s hearing Tuesday on Zoabi’s disqualification revolved around differing interpretations of the Knesset Elections Law’s disqualification provision, which is limited to cases where there is clear proof of a candidate supporting armed conflict against the state.
Attorney Hassan Jabareen of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel told the court that its December ruling against Zoabi regarding a sixmonth suspension by the Knesset on ethics issues had no bearing on the disqualification debate, since the law to disqualify is much stricter and harder to invoke. The state described Zoabi’s conduct as “very troubling,” but said that in principle it agreed with Jabareen’s argument that there was no legal basis to disqualify her.
It added that the court’s precedent was that it only disqualifies “in the most exceptional of exceptional circumstances.”
Though the court reinstated Zoabi, Rubinstein appeared incensed at some of her statements, pressing the state repeatedly to give an example that would cross the line and justify disqualification.
Melcer also drew attention to Zoabi’s visit to Qatar during last summer’s war, though Jabareen retorted that Qatar was not defined as an enemy state and that it conducted trade with Israel.
Though last Thursday’s disqualification of Yahad candidate and long-time hard-right political activist Marzel has been slightly lower-profile than the Zoabi battle, it has also fueled high emotions and took center stage at the High Court following her hearing.
Marzel’s lawyer, activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, said the anti-Arab statements attributed to his client were inaccurate and out of context, and that in some cases, “he didn’t say them at all.”
Next, he said that “even if Marzel said ‘Kahane was right,’ that would not even be close” to violating the Knesset Elections Law standard for disqualification. Ben- Gvir also emphasized that Marzel had changed a lot over the years despite his earlier membership and leadership positions in the now-outlawed Kach movement.