Israel's Election Panel to Consider Barring Kahanist Party From Running

Petition urges Central Elections Committee to disqualify followers of outlawed rabbi from Knesset run

File photo: Itamar Ben-Gvir, left, and Michael Ben Ari of Otzma Yehudit at a demonstration in northern Arab city Umm al-Fahm, Israel, July 14, 2017.
Eran Gilvarg

The Central Elections Committee will consider barring the Otzma Yehudit party from running in April’s election, after a petition urging it to do so received the last of the necessary signatures on Tuesday.

A disqualification petition requires the signatures of at least 12 committee members before it can be discussed. The committee is comprised of representatives of all the parties in the outgoing Knesset.

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The Meretz party’s representatives filed the petition, and it was quickly joined by representatives of the Labor Party and the Joint List. On Tuesday, Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid agreed to support the petition as well, providing the last of the necessary signatures.

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“We joined the request due to our commitment to work by any means necessary to prevent the Kahanists from entering the Knesset,” Yesh Atid said in a statement.

Many of Otzma Yehudit’s leading figures were followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement was outlawed as a terrorist organization in the 1990s.

Meretz thanked all the parties that supported its petition, saying, “A terrorist organization has no place in the Knesset.”

Otzma Yehudit said in response, “The cat is out of the bag. It turns out that [Benny] Gantz wants to set up a government with the votes of the terrorists’ representatives in the Knesset,” a reference to the Arab parties. “And he’s winking at them by joining the disqualification request. But it won’t help. The unification of the right-wing parties was the surprise of the election.”

In fact, Gantz and his Hosen L’Yisrael party couldn’t join the petition: Since the new party is not in the outgoing Knesset, it has no seats on the Central Elections Committee. But Gantz recently agreed to run on a joint ticket with Yesh Atid, which did support the petition.

The Central Elections Committee is a political organization that makes decisions by majority vote rather than on a legal basis. However, its decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court. In previous years, when the committee voted to disqualify the Balad party, the court overturned its decision.

This week, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American organizations issued a rare criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for persuading Habayit Hayehudi to run on a joint ticket with Otzma Yehudit. The joint run makes it likely that Otzma Yehudit will have representation in the next Knesset, something it could not have achieved running on its own.