'We Represent the People': Israel's Top Judge Scolded at Kahanist's Hearing

Supreme Court holds hearing on petitions to disqualify Michael Ben Ari from running in election

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks in the Knesset, Jerusalem, December 26, 2018.
MK Bezalel Smotrich speaks in the Knesset, Jerusalem, December 26, 2018.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

A far-right Israeli politician scolded Israel's Supreme Court president during a hearing Thursday, admonishing her "disdain" for the Israeli parliament.

Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich, who attended the hearing on the petitions to disqualify the Kahanist lawmakers who joined his slate, told Esther Hayut his party "represents the sovereign people." 

Last week, the Central Elections Committee allowed Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir from Otzma Yehudit to run in the April 9 election, despite opposition from the attorney general. The Supreme Court convened on Thursday to hear the petitions against the decision.

>> Kahane's Knesset legacy: If there's no Torah, the pigs will take over the country

The prospects of Ben Ari's party, composed of followers of the later, racist rabbi Meir Kahane, dramatically rose when it merged with the Habayit Hayehudi party in a controversial deal forged several weeks ago with the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman criticized Ben Ari for his statements against a tender allowing Israeli Arabs to reside in the city of Afula, which Ben Ari described as "opening a tender for the enemy under the guise of equal rights." 

"This is crystal-clear sentence," the judge said, "what context of a national struggle is there in this case, concerning a citizen who wants to live in Afula?"

Attorney Yitzhak Bam, who represents Ben Ari, opposed the notion of the court weighing in on the decision already made by the election committee. He also defended Ben Ari's statement from May 2018, in which he said that Arabs "are our enemies who want to destroy us. There are of course loyal Arabs, but they [constitute] less than one percent."

"Ben Ari has no problem with a person who is loyal to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people," said attorney Bam. "[But] with a person who does not identify with [that], there is certainly a problem." 

"So he's an enemy," responded the judge. "And 99 percent are enemies. That's the logic." Bam concurred: "That is the logic."

At this point, lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich yelled at Supreme Court President Hayut. "I respect the court, and I ask you to respect the Knesset and its representatives," he said. Hayut called on him not to speak without being called on, adding that she is not obliged to explain her statements.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court deliberated on Ofer Cassif’s appeal of his disqualification. During the hearing, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said some of the far-left lawmaker's statements that led to his disqualification were "very grave."

An additional hearing is scheduled for Thursday. The court is expected to rule on Sunday whether Cassif will be allowed to represent the Arab-majority Hadash party in the Knesset.

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