Supreme Court President Aharon Barak made it clear at the beginning of a hearing on Tuesday evening that the court would not disqualify three former Labor MKs who left the party before the end of the 16th Knesset to run on the Kadima list in the upcoming elections.
He went so far as to suggest that the petitioners who called for the disqualification withdraw their petition before the hearing began.
The petition was submitted by the Labor Party against Shimon Peres, Dalia Itzik and Haim Ramon. All three announced they were switching to the Kadima Party soon after the Labor primary in which Amir Peretz was elected party chairman. The three did not resign from the Knesset for several weeks after announcing that they had quit Labor and intended to join Kadima.
In the state's response to the petition on Monday, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz argued that the three should be entitled to run for Kadima.
The legal dispute revolved around whether or not the three MKs should be defined as MKs who had left their party in return for "compensation" from a rival party with a different platform from the party on whose ticket the MKs had originally been elected. According to the law, if an MK is defined as having left his party in the above circumstances, he may not be able to run in the next election for any party that had been represented in the outgoing Knesset.
The only way an MK who leaves his party in mid-term is free to run on any ticket in the following election is if he resigns from the Knesset "close to the date" that he left his party.
The reason for the legislation was to prevent MKs from switching allegiances and robbing their original party of its mandate in return for personal political gain.
Mazuz maintained that since the three MKs had left Labor at the end of the 16th Knesset's term in office, they could not effectively rob their former party of the mandate since there was no longer any substantial Knesset business to conduct. The term "close to" was a relative concept which varied according to the circumstances. In these circumstances, the three MKs could be regarded as having resigned from the Knesset "close to" their resignation from Labor, and therefore could run on the Kadima list for the 17th Knesset.