Netanyhau's Likud Joins Kahanists' Campaign Against Arab Party

Likud and ultra-nationalist, anti-Arab Otzma Yehudit party file a joint appeal to the Supreme court claiming that the Joint List lawmakers support terrorism

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting, August 4, 2019.
Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting, August 4, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party filed a joint appeal on Tuesday with the Supreme Court against the Central Election Committee's decision to allow the Arab-majority Joint List to run in the September 17 election.

The appeal was joined by members of that very committee who belong to Likud.

Last week Otzma Yehudit petitioned the Central Election Committee against the Joint List, ostensibly presenting evidence that the Arab lawmakers support terrorism.

The petition cited visits by incumbent Arab Knesset member to security prisoners. The petition also quotes Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh's recent interview with the Lebanon-based Al Mayadeen TV network, in which he said that canceling the 2015 nuclear deal could "lead Israel toward historic decisions against the interests of our people."

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh launching election campaign, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2019. Credit: David Bachar

>> Read more: Why Should an Israeli Arab Vote? | Opinion

Otzma Yehudit claimed Odeh's expressed support for Iran.

"The evidence we submitted to the Supreme Court today leave no room for confusion. Knesset members who support Iran and visit terrorists in prison not only don't belong in the Israel Knesset, but there is no place for them in Israel at all," Otzma Yehudit member Itamar Ben-Gvir said.

Last week, the Central Election Committee denied a petition to bar Otzma Yehudit from running in the September vote.

It also voted down petitions to individually block its members Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein from participating in the Knesset race.

Central Election Committee hears the petition against members of Otzma Yehudit, August 14, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced that he supports barring Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein from contending in the election, though he stopped short of disqualifying the party as a whole from the race. Nor did he agree to bar its leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, from running. Marzel is second on the Otzma roster and Gopstein is fifth.

Mendelblit explained that he and the state prosecutor believe Marzel and Gopstein should be barred because a "critical mass of evidence has accrued, in fact far beyond that, from which a clear, categorical picture emerges of incitement to racism by them, methodically and over years."

He added that their incitement is as severe and extensive as in the case of Michael Ben Ari, whose candidacy to the 21st Knesset was disqualifiedby the Supreme Court.

The evidence of incitement to racism over years, including in the last year, is firmly based, Mendelblit said. "Marzel treats Israeli Arabs in general as an enemy threatening the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Marzel calls time and again to act against this enemy – to harm him physically, to prevent his employment and livelihood, to evict him from his home, and more – to banish him from the land of Israel."

Itamar Ben Gvir defends his party before the Central Elections Committee, August 14, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The ultra-nationalist and anti-Arab party opposes any form of a Palestinian state and any relationship or negotiation with the Palestinian Authority, while calling for outright annexation of the entire West Bank and cancellation of the Oslo Accords. It also calls for Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, embraces deportation, aspires to “a Jewish majority and a loyal civilian population through emigration,” and says Israel should employ “every legal means that will help the enemy leave our land.”

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