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Far-right activist Baruch Marzel was banned by police from entering the Arab city of Umm el-Fahm on Tuesday morning to serve as a polling station chairman.
The move came after dozens of local residents gathered at the entrance to the town to block the National Union party candidate's path.
Police cited intelligence reports indicating that Marzel's presence would pose "a serious threat to public safety."
"In order to ensure that the elections go ahead properly and without violent disturbances, Northern police District Chief Cmdr. Shimon Koren decided to deny Marzel entrance to Umm el-Fahm," police said.
But police arrested five people in Umm el-Fahm later in the day for taking part in a violent disturbance and pelting a police convoy which was carrying MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) out of town.
One of the suspects under arrest is a resident of Jaffa, who police said arrived to incite violence in the area.
Eldad arrived at a polling center Tuesday morning to briefly replace Marzel, who had been selected by his party to oversee voting at the station in accordance with Central Elections Committee procedures.
Eldad's entry into the polling station was criticized by some of the local residents, who said they considered it an act of provocation.
The police's decision to bar Marzel from the town came despite intensive police preparations on Monday night ahead of his scheduled arrival.
"I hope today that a lot of Jews in Israel know the situation in Umm el-Fahm," Marzel, a former leader of the outlawed Kach movement which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, said in a phone interview after the incident. "It's an occupied territory by supporters of Hamas, Hizbullah and Fatah. It's out of our hands. The police are afraid to enforce law and order."
Marzel said that while the police are heavy-handed with settler youth in the hilltops or in the disputed house of Beit Shalom in Hebron, they are weak "towards the enemy."
Arab-Israeli residents of Umm el-Fahm praised the police's decision to block Marzel's entry.
"We are talking about provocation, pure and simple," said Nabil Sa'ad, a restaurant owner in Umm el Fahm. "We're not talking about a naÃ¯ve representative [of a polling station]â€¦.Although it's completely different proportions, it's similar to when [former then opposition leader Arik] Sharon entered Al-Aqsa [The Temple Mount] in 2000â€¦.It's the same intention, the same agitation."
Shortly after arriving in the town, Eldad asked police to escort him out of Umm el-Fahm after local residents began gathering around the polling center.
Eldad said he did not stay longer than he originally intended due to previous commitments he had on election day.
"The state of Israel belongs to the people of Israel and this is not an Arab state, this is a law-[abiding] state, and not a state that surrenders to threats of violence and terrorism," Eldad said.
Eldad called his entry into the polling station "a very clear victory of the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state and not a state that is afraid of threats, or of the Arab minority, as it seems to have behaved in the last couple of months."
But Eldad said that since the police had been able to protect him, they could have also protected Marzel.
"If they can allocate policemen to guard me, they can do it for Baruch Marzel and anyone else," Eldad said."There is a price to pay for democracy, and we have to pay the price and not to surrender to lawbreakers or Arab terrorism."
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) called Marzel's attempt to chair a polling station and Eldad's entry into an Umm el-Fahm a provocation.
"They are not doing well in the polls so they are trying to earn popularity," he said, from the same Umm el-Fahm polling center where Eldad served.
Zahalka added that the police should have also barred Eldad from entering the city, Freedom of expression does not extend to racism, he said. "
It's an act that must be punished, and whoever calls for transfer of the Arab population needs to be in jail."
Zahalka called Eldad an enthusiastic supporter of transfer.
Northern District Chief Cmdr. Shimon Koren vowed on Tuesday to act with zero tolerance towards those who disturb the peace, adding that he has ordered his forces to move in and make arrests when necessary.
"Knesset Member Eldad asked us to help him leave. All is quiet here now," Northern District Spokesman Yehuda Maman told The Jerusalem Post shortly after the incident, speaking by cell phone from Umm el-Fahm.
Thamina Hosary, a Hadash monitor at the same polling station, called Eldad "a persona non grata" and said she and other monitors in the room told him directly that he was not welcome in Umm el-Fahm.
"We have the right to decide which people we want to accept as guests in Umm el-Fahm," said Hosary, who is originally from Umm el-Fahm but now lives in Jerusalem. "We don't want to host such a fascist or racist person who doesn't appreciate us."
Hosary said that Eldad, along with other MKs such as Avigdor Lieberman, "believe that Arabs are not equal citizensâ€¦. They want to separate us from our people" in Israel by swapping Arab towns like Umm el-Fahm in a future Palestinian state with Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
"I told him you are fascist and I don't want you here," she said after the incident. "He started to explain to me why he is here, but I didn't want to listen. I told him, 'I just want you to leave."
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