Israel’s elections committee said Thursday it has barred an Arab alliance from taking part in April elections over claims it supports violent resistance against the country.
The committee voted 17 to 10 in favor of disqualifying the Ram-Balad alliance late Wednesday night, spokesman Giora Fordis said.
The move came after earlier approving Jewish candidates from an extreme-right party that’s widely viewed as racist and is sometimes dubbed the “KKK of Israel.”
‘Worrying, But Not Surprising’
The committee is made up of representatives of parties in parliament and its decisions can be appealed to the supreme court.
Ram-Balad is one of two main Arab alliances running in the April 9 elections.
Its candidacy had been challenged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, under laws disqualifying those who challenge the definition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state or who back armed opposition to it.
The man behind the far-right Otzma Yehudit party pic.twitter.com/XwI0tgH3mQ
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) February 21, 2019
“Those who support terror will not be in the Israeli Knesset!” Netanyahu wrote on social media after the vote.
The committee’s decision went against a recommendation by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who said the evidence presented against Ram-Balad was old and a previous attempt to disqualify it had been overruled by a court.
The committee also barred Ofer Cassif, the sole Jewish candidate for the mainly Arab Hadash party, under the same criteria.
“It’s worrying what’s happening in this country, but not surprising,” Balad candidate Heba Yazbak told Israeli army radio Thursday.
“Balad is usually disqualified before elections,” she said. “We shall appeal to the supreme court.”
Arab nationalist party Balad is fiercely critical of Israeli policies, particularly the occupation of Palestinian territory.
Arab Israelis are descended from Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.
They hold Israeli citizenship, making up 17.5 percent of the country’s population, but most see themselves as Palestinians.
All of the election committee’s Wednesday rulings are being challenged in petitions expected to be filed with the supreme court on Sunday, Israeli media reported.
The court has overturned such rulings in the past.
The Israel Democracy Institute think-tank said Thursday that the structure of the committee is problematic.
“A committee composed of political party representatives competing against each other on the eve of elections cannot be expected to impartially implement judicial rulings,” it said in a statement.
The committee on Wednesday also cleared two candidates from the extreme-right Jewish Power party to run in the elections.
Michael Ben-Ari, who has described Israeli Arabs as “treacherous and murderous”, and Itamar Ben-Gvir were given the green light.
The attorney general had recommended Ben-Ari be disqualified, saying the politician’s comments amounted to “incitement to racism”.
More on the Subject
Israel’s attorney general has announced his intention to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery pending a hearing.
Here are a series of questions and answers on the allegations and their impact on April 9 elections: