High Court greenlights Chikli, Silman and Balad to run in election

Petitioners said that they were disappointed in the ruling * Zehava Galon says that Chikli and Silman protected by corruption

 Yamina MK Idit Silman at the Knesset, April 25, 2022.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yamina MK Idit Silman at the Knesset, April 25, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The High Court of Justice on Sunday green-lighted former Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, Yamina MK Idit Silman and the Israeli-Arab Balad party to run in the November 1 elections.

The decisions angered parties on both the Right, who wanted Balad disqualified, and the Left, who wanted Chikli and Silman disqualified.

The biggest surprise was allowing Chikli to run, given that on September 28, Central Election Committee (CEC) head and High Court Justice Yitzhak Amit nixed him from standing for office.

Amit had said that Chikli’s failure to immediately resign from the Knesset when he had been declared a seceder by the Yamina party meant he was prohibited from running with any other existing party, such as the Likud, who offered him a spot.

In contrast, the justices by an 8-1 vote, with only Justice Ofer Grosskopf dissenting, said that the situation was murkier, partially because the Knesset had not outlined how quickly Chikli needed to resign once declared a seceder.

 MK AMICHAI CHIKLI attends the House Committee meeting in the Knesset last week at which he was declared a defector. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) MK AMICHAI CHIKLI attends the House Committee meeting in the Knesset last week at which he was declared a defector. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

A common understanding

Though the common understanding of the relevant law was he needed to resign immediately from the Knesset once he was declared a seceder if he wanted to try to join another party, most of the High Court agreed with Chikli that his appeal within 60 days of being declared a seceder could be seen as within the definition of “immediate” since he was disputing the entire situation.

Chikli did resign within days of a deal between himself, the Knesset legal adviser and the Jerusalem District Court.

Critics on the Left as well as the Movement for the Quality of Government for Israel (MQGI) said that the justices were being overly technical, and in doing so tearing out the heart of the law that the Knesset had passed to prevent MKs from being promised positions in opposition parties in order to make a sitting coalition fall.

High Court President Esther Hayut said that the petitioners might be right in theory, but that only the Knesset could fix the ambiguity regarding what “immediately” means if the seceding Knesset MK appeals the Knesset sanctions.

The votes regarding Silman and Balad were unanimous.

One of the petitions against Silman on similar grounds as with Chikli was withdrawn as she was never declared a seceder.

The other petition, by MQGI, said she should be criminally prosecuted and prevented from running until the criminal allegations of being “bribed” into leaving the coalition for the Likud were clarified.

But the justices said that this was a decision for the attorney-general.

Even after MQGI noted that the attorney-general’s office has dragged its feet on the issue for about half a year, the High Court still said it could not intervene.

Regarding Balad, the High Court said that the petition was much weaker even than past petitions that it had dismissed.

Although Balad separated from the Joint List and critics said this made the party even more extreme and potentially dangerous, the High Court noted that Balad has not raised a law undermining Israel’s Jewishness since 2018 as a sign that it has moderated some.