Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Israel’s election board has disqualified an Arab party, while approving far-right candidates accused of racism, ahead of parliamentary elections due to be held early next month.
The Central Elections Committee barred Balad from participating in April 9 elections for the 21st Knesset, voting 17-10 in favor of disqualifying the Arab alliance.
The disqualification of Balad was approved in accordance with a petition filed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party and Otzma Yehudit, a far-right and anti-Arab party. They say the Arab alliance wants to “eliminate” Israel and supports Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements.
“Those who support terrorism will not be in the Israeli Knesset!” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter after the vote. The Israeli premier is now facing a corruption case and a merger of centrist parties that could defeat him in the upcoming elections.
Pro-democracy Balad describes itself as a movement opposed to Zionism and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. It now holds four seats as part of the 12-member United Arab List, which represents members of Israel’s Arab minority.
Earlier, attorney general Avichai Mandelblit had recommended the committee members not to vote against Balad, stressing that the evidence presented against the alliance was old and a previous attempt to disqualify it had been overruled by a court.
On Thursday, United Arab List chair Mansour Abbas lambasted the decision and said Balad would appeal.
“We undergo this travesty during every election campaign. In the end, the supreme court voids the elections committee’s political, populist decisions,” he said.
Back in 2009, Israel’s supreme court reinstated Balad after it was disqualified.
The committee, made up of representatives of parties in parliament, also disqualified Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish candidate representing the mainly Arab Hadash party, under the same criteria.
According to Israeli media, it is expected that all of the committee’s rulings will be challenged in petitions to be filed with the supreme court on Sunday.
The committee on Wednesday also qualified two candidates from the extreme-right Jewish Power party to run in the elections. Michael Ben-Ari, who has branded Israeli Arabs as “treacherous and murderous”, and Itamar Ben-Gvir were given the green light.
The rulings against the two figures were issued after the committee struck down motions by a liberal Jewish movement and center-left politicians against Ben-Ari and Ben-Gvir.
The Israeli attorney general had recommended Ben-Ari to be barred from the polls, arguing that the politician’s comments amounted to “incitement to racism.”
Netanyahu has allied with an ultra-nationalist list that includes the Jewish Power party to enhance his chances to win.
Arabs, most of whom consider themselves as Palestinians, are descended from Palestinians who remained on their occupied land after the creation of Israel in 1948. They hold so-called Israeli citizenship, making up 17.5 percent of Israel’s population.