Netanyahu supports cancelling law banning racists from Knesset

The new law that the Likud plans to bring will replace clause in Basic Law that bars racists and terrorists from running for office.

 Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir in Tel Aviv on November 7, 2022.  (photo credit: LIKUD)
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir in Tel Aviv on November 7, 2022.
(photo credit: LIKUD)

The incoming coalition plans to replace the entire clause in the Basic Law: The Knesset that lists criteria to block a person from running for the Knesset. In its place, they are proposing a new law that would “fight racism and terror and ensure equal and effective enforcement to Jews and Arabs alike,” the Likud said Sunday.

The statement came after it was revealed on Thursday that the coalition agreement between Otzma Yehudit and the Likud would cancel the criterion of “incitement to racism” that bars a person from running for office. This would enable far-right extremists to run, including former MKs Michael Ben-Ari, Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein, who in the past were barred from running because of the clause.

Clause 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset states: “A candidates’ list shall not participate in elections for the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following: 1. Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; 2. Incitement to racism; 3. Support for armed struggle by a hostile state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.”

What did the original agreement say?

The original agreement between Likud and Otzma Yehudit was to erase only the second criterion. However, according to the Likud’s new statement, the agreement is now to cancel the entire clause – thus placing no limits on the right to run for office, unless such limits are introduced in the new law.

The reason, according to the statement, was that the clause “did not prevent the election to the Knesset of terror supporters and racists.”

 Itamar Ben-Gvir and right-wing activists protest against a meeting with bereaved Palestinian families outside the Rene Kasen high school in Jerusalem, March 29, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Itamar Ben-Gvir and right-wing activists protest against a meeting with bereaved Palestinian families outside the Rene Kasen high school in Jerusalem, March 29, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The Likud and Otzma Yehudit announced on Thursday morning that they had reached final agreements, hours after Netanyahu announced to President Isaac Herzog that he had succeeded in forming a government. However, the sides have not yet signed an official document.

Otzma Yehudit said in response to the Likud’s announcement: For the attention of our Likud friend, we are used to a deal being a deal and a promise is a promise. It is important to maintain this principle in order to bring about a stable government. The new law that the Likud updated that it intends to introduce was not brought to our attention and we are of course open to hearing how we will remove [Hadash-Ta’al MKs, Ahmad] Tibi, [Ayman] Odeh and Ofer Kasif from the Knesset.

“The purpose of repealing the racism criteria is to stop the injustice done only to Jews... if the Likud wants a new bill, we will be happy to talk. We, too, do not want racism in the Israeli Knesset, but we also do not want discrimination and persecution only against Jews, while haters of Israel like Ayman Odeh are run for Knesset.”