Jerusalem: Israel’s election committee on Wednesday cleared two candidates for an extreme-right party many view as racist to run in April elections, in a boost for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The committee, comprised of representatives of parties in Israel’s parliament, approved the candidacy of Michael Ben-Ari of the Jewish Power party by one vote despite a recommendation from the attorney general to disqualify him.
The second Jewish Power candidate, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was also approved by the same tally as for Ben-Ari, 16 to 15.
The decision was to be appealed to the country’s supreme court, which would have the final word ahead of the April 9 election.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said late Tuesday that recent remarks by Ben-Ari amount to “incitement to racism” against Israeli Arabs, who constitute around 17.5 percent of the population.
Ben-Ari has described Israeli Arabs as “treacherous and murderous”, Mandelblit said in a statement.
“Ben-Ari is inciting on an ethnic-nationalistic basis against the Arab population” and “calling for a violent renunciation of the Arab population’s rights,” Mandelblit said.
Mandelblit said Ben-Gvir’s statements were however not sufficient to bar him.
Ben-Ari and others have in turn called for the disqualification of lists from Arab parties over their alleged lack of loyalty to Israel and support of “terror” against it.
Jewish Power are followers of late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement was labelled a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
Hoping to secure as many right-wing seats as possible in the next parliament, Netanyahu brokered a deal that saw Jewish Power join with two far-right parties to create a single electoral list.
Ben-Ari, who was a member of parliament from 2009 to 2013, was given fifth place on the list. Ben-Gvir was given the eighth slot.
Netanyahu has faced harsh criticism over the deal, with many accusing him of easing the path for “racists” to make it into parliament.
Jewish Power lashed out at Mandelblit’s recommendation against Ben-Ari, accusing him of “hypocrisy” for not recommending to disqualify the Arab lists and claiming he was attempting to “run Israel”.
It said the attorney general had been misled “with partial recordings and distortions of interviews”.