Israeli Election Panel Rejects Changes to Extreme Right-wing Party’s Slate

Otzma Yehudit loses No. 5 slot on joint ticket as result of its No. 1's disqualification

Itamar Ben-Gvir and Michael Ben Ari during a far-right demonstration in Umm al-Fahm, Israel, August 9, 2018.
Eran Gilwarg

The disqualification of far-right Otzma Yehudit’s No. 1 candidate means the party has forfeited its No. 5 slot on the Union of Right-Wing Parties joint ticket, the chairman of the Central Elections Committee has ruled, ahead of Israel's April 9 election.

Originally, Otzma was given the fifth and eighth slots on the joint ticket. After Michael Ben Ari was disqualified from running on grounds of incitement against Arabs, his No. 2, Itamar Ben-Gvir, asked to be moved up to the fifth slot.

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Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, the chairman the Central Elections Committee, rejected this request, saying he can find no law that allows the committee to permit changes in the order of a ticket after the deadline for finalizing all slates has passed.

For the same reason, Melcer rejected Yitzhak Shimon Wasserlauf’s request to be moved from No. 39 to No. 9 on the Union of Right-Wing Parties joint ticket. Wasserlauf is Otzma’s No. 3.

The ruling means the electoral alliance must win at least seven Knesset seats for Otzma to gain representation in the legislature. Ben-Gvir is now No. 7 on the slate, after Ben Ari’s disqualification bumped everyone behind him on the ticket up by one place.

“It’s true that I’ll get into the Knesset even from seventh place in the Union of Right-Wing Parties,” Ben-Gvir said in response. “But the feeling is that the legal system is persecuting us, because they understand we won’t permit a continuation of government by the High Court of Justice and the legal system. It won’t help them.”

Melcer essentially adopted the position of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who also said he could find no legal grounds for altering the ticket.

“Admittedly, it’s possible to argue that a different legal arrangement, which would provide a solution to a case like this, would be preferable,” wrote attorney Roy Shweika of the Justice Ministry, in an opinion submitted to Melcer on Mendelblit’s behalf. “But as long as the existing law remains in force, there’s no legal way to grant the request in this case.”

Melcer also cited a Supreme Court ruling handed down just a few days earlier on a petition seeking move a candidate higher up the Likud party’s list.

Thanks to Ben Ari’s disqualification, Habayit Hayehudi and National Union each will now have three candidates in the ticket’s first six slots.