Netanyahu, Chikli Apologize to Supreme Court for Maligning Israeli Elections Committee

Both politicians slammed the committee for trying to 'bring down the rule of the right even before the election.' Likud's laywer now says they may have 'expressed themselves too passionately'

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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Amichai Chikli at the appeal hearing, Thursday.
Amichai Chikli at the appeal hearing, Thursday.Credit: אורן בן חקון
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

A lawyer representing Likud in the appeal against ex-lawmaker Amichai Chikli's election disqualification apologized to the Supreme Court on Thursday on the behalf of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Chikli, for what they said about the Central Elections Committee.

"Former Prime Minister Netanyahu and Amichai Chikli stand completely behind their objection to the decision concerning Chikli," Attorney Michael Rabello said, noting that it was the end of the Yom Kippur.

"They regret that they expressed themselves too passionately in light of this decision," he said, adding that their statements did not apply to anyone personally.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said in response that an apology is definitely in order.

Later in the hearing, Hayut offered Chikli the opportunity to apologize himself, and not through his lawyer. “If someone chooses to apologize, he is expected to do so in an unmediated manner. That is not a legal argument,” she added.

“I stand behind the things said at the beginning of the hearing," Chikli later said, referring to the apology.

He added that "Some of this criticism was not to the point, but ad hominem [about Justice Isaac Amit], and I apologize.”

Amit, the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, ruled Chikli could not run on the Likud slate in the November 1 election after being declared a defector by his former party, Yamina.

Likud said it would appeal the decision to bar Chikli, calling it “absurd” and a “serious blow to democracy.” Earlier that day, quoting a War of Independence officer, Chikli tweeted: “What we are and what our lives are zero, nothing – the main thing is the projects we commit ourselves to. We will strike our enemy wherever we advance… Our answer remains – eternal Jerusalem."

Chikli told Israeli news station Channel 14 after Amit handed down his decision that in his opinion, "On the legal level, this injustice screams to the heavens… I think that if we want a clear example of the politicization of Supreme Court justices—today, Justice Isaac Amit proved that he is a politician in the guise of a judge, and his decision is scandalous, immoral, political from A to Z."

Netanyahu spoke about Chikli’s disqualification at a campaign rally in Lod last week, and said: “The Elections Committee is trying to bring down the rule of the right even before the election… They disqualify Chikli and approve Ahmad Tibi, disqualify Balad but approve Ayman Odeh. The game is fixed.”

“I ask the head of the [elections] committee: Why play? Do it from the diving board: Disqualify Likud and get it over with. It’s not law, it’s not justice, and we will provide an answer to it. Whoever doesn’t want Chikli as an MK, will get him as a minister,” said Netanyahu.

Likud and Chikli argued in their appeal this week that the decision to bar Chikli was made illegally, as Amit did not have the authority to make such a decision and the matter must be decided by the Central Elections Committee – which is composed of representatives of the political parties in the outgoing Knesset.

“It is impossible to accept a situation in which a Knesset member and party act according to the recommendation of the legally authorized court in a panel of three judges [the Jerusalem District Court that approved the compromise with Chikli] and later they find themselves facing a dead end – the meaning of which is a violation of the fundamental constitutional right to vote and be elected, rights that are the foundation stones of democracy,” the appeal states.

The Supreme Court must protect their fundamental constitutional rights and rule in favor of Chikli’s candidacy, the appellants said.

Amit justified the ruling at the time by arguing that Chikli delayed filing his appeal against Yamina's defector declaration and subsequently continued to act against the party in key Knesset votes.

The Elections Committee did permit Idit Silman, another Yamina renegade whose defection from the government precipitated Israel's fifth election in three and a half years, to run on Likud's Knesset slate.

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