High Court allows Zoabi to run for Knesset

Court unanimously rules to overturn Central Elections Committee's decision to ban Balad MK from standing in upcoming elections.

Zoabi arrives at court 370 (photo credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
Zoabi arrives at court 370
(photo credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
The High Court on Sunday overturned the Central Election Committee's decision to disqualify MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) from running for a seat in the upcoming elections, rejecting their claim that she should be banned based on her involvement in the Gaza flotilla in May 2010.
Responding to the High Court decision in an interview with Army Radio, Zoabi said although she respects the decision to allow her to run in the upcoming elections, it doesn't mean Israel is "100% democratic."
"This ruling proves again that the Central Elections Committee is a political body that abuses its authorities and allows politicians to bar their rivals for ideological reasons," Zoabi said.
Zoabi said she was convinced she would be allowed to run. "It was clear to me that there was no legal basis to ban me," she said, adding that the judges "avoided giving in to the racist right."
"However, this decision does not erase the threats, the de-legitimization, and the physical and verbal violence that I experienced at Knesset and outside of it in the past three years," she stated.
Zoabi was also determined to continue acting the way she has done thus far. "Balad and I would not allow anyone in Knesset or outside of it to define to us and to the Arab public what our legitimate positions are and what are the limits of our political activity."
Zoabi's attorney Hassan Jabareen claimed Zoabi's participation in the 2010 Gaza flotilla aboard the Mavi Marmara was "a legitimate political action done by an MK that is protesting the blockade [on Gaza]."
Arguing to reinstate Zoabi, Jabareen told the justices that court precedent is clear that disqualifying a candidate for Knesset for involvement in “armed conflict” against Israel means physical armed conflict, and not just happening to be present on a vessel where armed conflict occurred with a small number of passengers.
He noted that no criminal complaint were filed against Zoabi for her mere presence on the Marvi Marmara.
Zoabi was disqualified by the Central Elections Committee last week, in a 19-9 vote, despite Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein recommending that she be allowed to run. The committee approved the ban on the grounds that Zoabi supported terrorism and rejected Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
The Likud party on Sunday responded to the decision, saying it is clear the existing law "has to change" and stated "unequivocally that any expression of support for terrorism amongst candidates will result in their disqualification from the Knesset."
MK Yariv Levin said the decision is a "scandal," adding that it exposes Knesset and the IDF to terror.
MK Danny Danon, who petitioned the Election Committee asking to disqualify Zoabi, said following the Court ruling that he thinks "Zoabi belongs in jail."
"The court decided to back the Marmara terrorist (Zoabi) instead of the Navy soldiers that were attacked with knives and clubs by the IHH terrorists," he said.
Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka had said following the decision last week that if Zoabi is disqualified, Balad would not run.
Lahav Harkov and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.