(March 18, 2019 / JNS) Israel’s Supreme Court banned Otzma Yehudit candidate Michael Ben-Ari from running in the upcoming national elections—the first time Israel’s highest court has ever prevented a single individual from running in an Israeli election—in opposition to a decision by the Central Elections Committee.
In an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court voted in favor of a petition to disqualify Ben-Ari due to anti-Arab beliefs and incitement. The court’s decision had been urged by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and represents the first time that the Supreme Court barred an individual, rather than a faction or party, from running.
Under Article 7A of the Basic Law: The Knesset, “incitement to racism” is one of three actions that disqualify a candidate from running for Knesset.
Ben-Ari has insisted that his remarks were taken intentionally out of context, and that he is not a racist.
Otzma blasted the decision, with Ben-Ari calling the Supreme Court a “judicial junta that seeks to take over our lives.”
Otzma issued a demand from the Jewish Home Party with which it is partnered, to assure that Otzma candidate Baruch Marzel receive a ministerial position, and that Itamar Ben-Gvir be posted to head the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in the Knesset.
They also demanded that Ben-Gvir be moved from eighth to fifth position in the joint party list of the United Right Wing Parties list. Ben-Ari had been fifth on the list, and Ben-Gvir is expected to be pushed to the seventh slot, due to laws pertaining to shuffling the slates after formal submission of the lists to the Central Elections Committee.
Otzma said the demands were made in order to ensure that supporters would still see an incentive in voting for the joint list, despite the setback with Ben-Ari.
On Monday, National Union Chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich called a Knesset meeting about the situation.
“We heard a lot of condemnations of the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday, but words are not enough; it’s time to act,” said Smotrich. “For the first time in the State of Israel’s history, a ‘council of wise men’ is deciding who Israel’s citizens are allowed to vote for, instead of the voters deciding.”
“The Supreme Court justices disqualified a candidate due to his views regarding Israel’s enemies, but approved parties which openly identify with Israel’s enemies. This distortion of justice must be corrected today,” said Smotrich.
Smotrich also sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, coalition whip David Amsalem and coalition leaders, warning that the Supreme Court decision “places Israel together with countries such as Iran, which have a council of wise men which is authorized to decide, instead of the voters, who may and may not be chosen for parliament.”
“In recent days, all of you expressed opposition to this outrageous decision, which is even more outrageous in light of the fact that it allows terror supporters who oppose Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state to run for Knesset.
“Words are not enough. The Knesset must bring back democracy, for its own sake and that of the nation. I call on you to gather for an urgent meeting, held despite the break. [This meeting] will continue for as long as necessary and quickly pass the attached bill, which cancels the Supreme Court’s right to serve as a high council and will allow Dr. Ben-Ari to run in the upcoming elections.
“Despite the importance of the Supreme Court’s decision and the fact that it affects the constitutional right to vote and be elected, we have no right to appeal it. Therefore, we must see the Knesset as a body which can be appealed to, and which has the ability to cancel the court’s distorted decision.”