Far Right, Arabs pass Central Elections Committee

"There are good Arabs," Ben-Gvir told the 33-member committee. "They’re not all terrorists. The problem is not with all Arabs but with those who are not loyal."

August 15, 2019 04:41
2 minute read.
Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir at the the Central Elections Committee

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir at the the Central Elections Committee. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

After a full day of stormy debates, the Central Elections Committee rejected all petitions to prevent the Joint List, Blue and White, Otzma Yehudit and its candidates Itamar Ben-Gvir, Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein from running in the September 17 election.

The closest votes were on disqualifying Otzma Yehudit, which were tied at 15 in the 33-member committee after the Labor Party’s representatives failed to show up for the votes. The Democratic Union and Blue and White accused Labor of purposely absenting itself as part of a deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Labor responded that it was an innocent mistake.

“Labor has divorced its voters who oppose the Kahanists and their racism,” the Democratic Union said. “Every speech of incitement by Ben-Gvir as an MK will be the fault of [Labor-Gesher leaders] Amir Peretz, Orly Levy-Abecassis and Itzik Shmuli, who allowed the man who threatened Yitzhak Rabin to become an MK.”

Peretz responded that to make up for the “human error,” it would be the first party to petition the Supreme Court against Otzma and its candidates. The court is expected to rule next week on such petitions.

The court has overturned the Central Election Committee’s decisions not to disqualify candidates only once, in the case of Otzma candidate Michael Ben-Ari ahead of the April election.

Ben-Gvir and Marzel defended themselves from charges of racism that could have disqualified them from running.

“There are good Arabs,” Ben-Gvir told the committee. “They’re not all terrorists. The problem is not with all Arabs but with those who are not loyal. I am not anywhere close to the black line or to the redline.”

To prove that he is not racist, Ben-Gvir called for haredi (ultra-Orthodox) extremists from the Neturei Karta group who met with Iranian leaders in Tehran to be expelled from the country. Ben-Gvir complained about leaks of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s ruling favoring disqualifying Marzel and Gopstein.

“This is not how democracies are run,” he said. “This is how things are run in a banana republic. It’s shameful.”

Marzel also clarified his views, saying: “A significant portion of Arabs don’t want us here, but those who are not enemies have a right to be here. Those who want to live with us are acceptable, and those who support Hamas are not.”

Gopstein refused to apologize for his fight against assimilation as head of the Lehava organization.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s son dated a non-Jew from Norway, so I sent him a letter and, thank God, they broke up,” Gopstein told the committee. “I don’t think it makes me a racist. I am for limiting jobs to Jews. If that is incitement to racism, I am sorry. So was [David] Ben-Gurion.”

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