URP demands to allow racists, Jewish state rejectors into Knesset

Liberman: We’ll go to opposition unless all our demands are accepted; Rivlin grants Netanyahu two more weeks to form a government.

Bezalel Smotrich (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Bezalel Smotrich
The Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) demanded in Monday’s coalition talks that the coalition cancel the article in Basic Law: Knesset banning certain candidates from running for seats in the legislature.
The conditions for running for the Knesset listed in article 7a, which URP seeks to overturn, are that a candidate not incite to racism or terrorism; support armed conflict against Israel by an enemy state; or reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
The demand is in keeping with URP MK Bezalel Smotrich’s campaign promise, following the Supreme Court disqualifying former MK Michael Ben-Ari from running for the Knesset on the party’s list on grounds of racist incitement, but reversing a Central Elections Committee vote to ban new Hadash MK Ofer Cassif from running on grounds of rejecting Israel as a Jewish state.
“There are one-sided rulings” by the Supreme Court, Smotrich’s spokesman argued. “History shows that they totally ignore those who reject a Jewish state... When [a petition] comes against someone on the Left, there’s no ban, but when it’s against the Right, there is. That’s the rationale.”
Meanwhile, with only just over two weeks left to form a government, Likud insiders said the party made significant progress toward coalition agreements with haredi parties. Likud and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) negotiators plan to meet on Tuesday evening.
However, the Likud has not been successful in bridging gaps between the haredi parties and Yisrael Beytenu, leading party leader Avigdor Liberman to issue an ultimatum.
Liberman said that he will not speak to Likud negotiators until they say they will agree to his party’s five major demands.
“They have our phone numbers,” he said.
Yisrael Beytenu’s demands pertaining to matters of religion and state are problematic for it sitting in a coalition with Shas and UTJ.
Liberman repeated his insistence that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment bill drafted by the Defense Ministry under his stewardship – which passed a first reading in the Knesset last year – be passed into law with no changes.
He denied reports that he acceded to a compromise brought forward by the Likud, and that they are waiting for the chief rabbi of the Gur hassidic sect to agree to it.
In addition, Liberman conditioned entering the coalition on its committing to pass a law that would ban the use of DNA tests to prove Jewish status.
Liberman also slammed the government for allowing Qatar to transfer $30 million to Hamas in Gaza, a week after the terrorist organization, along with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, shot nearly 700 rockets at Israel.
If the next coalition “decides to defeat [Hamas], we will be loyal partners,” he stated. “There shouldn’t be any agreements [with them] until our captive soldiers and civilians are brought home.”
Liberman questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy for responding to Hamas, adding that there are major gaps between Yisrael Beytenu and the Likud on the matter.
“What is the endgame in Gaza?” he asked. “We can’t have an operation every few years and a drizzle [of rockets] in the middle. It’s intolerable. We need to focus on an endgame; no one else will do it for us.”
Another Yisrael Beytenu demand is the defense and immigration absorption portfolios.
In addition, Liberman said that the Likud agreed to pass Yisrael Beytenu’s death penalty for terrorists bill within six months of the government being sworn in. It is already on the books, but the new bill would remove the need for a unanimous vote by the judges on the case, requiring only a majority instead.
Earlier Monday, President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu two more weeks to form a coalition.
Netanyahu asked Rivlin for the extension until May 29, as the Likud has yet to sign coalition agreements with any of its potential partners.
“On April 17, 2019, you tasked me with forming the government,” Netanyahu wrote. “During the following time, I and my negotiating staff talked to parties that recommended me before you, and we made serious progress toward forming a government.”
However, due to Passover, Remembrance Day and Independence Day – and “security events around the Gaza Strip” – Netanyahu said that he must take the extra time permitted by law to finish building a coalition.
Rivlin gave Netanyahu the maximum additional time to form a government: 14 days.
Earlier Monday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein set a June 3 date for the legislature to vote for a new state comptroller, which is the final legal date before current Comptroller Joseph Shapira finishes his term on July 4.
The comptroller election will likely be the first challenge for the new coalition.
MKs must submit names of candidates to the Knesset Secretariat – with the signatures of at least 10 MKs and written agreement from the candidate – by next Monday, May 20.
The factions in the Knesset have yet to announce any candidates.
However, Netanyahu’s preferred candidate is thought to be Prof. Avraham Diskin, of the Political Science Department at Hebrew University and a senior fellow at the Kohelet Forum, a right-wing think tank.
Another rumored candidate is Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon.