Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit yesterday rejected two petitions to ban Arab-Israeli political parties from the country's upcoming general election.
In a letter to the Central Elections Committee – the body which oversees Israel's electoral process – Mandelblit wrote that he had rejected the petitions on the grounds that "the overall evidence presented in the framework of the two requests does not justify their acceptance," adding that "there has not been a critical mass of evidence required to disqualify a list of candidates".
The first of the two petitions was made against the Ra'am-Balad alliance, claiming its members "seek to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state" and support violent Palestinian resistance, as well as Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Times of Israel reported. A second petition was also submitted against Hadash-Ta'al, the other predominantly Arab-Israeli alliance which was formed last month in the wake of the Joint List break up earlier this year.
Mandelblit's ruling will put an end to an ongoing feud between several parties contesting Israel's upcoming general election on 9 April. The feud began when, last month, the ultra-nationalist Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party entered into an alliance with the Jewish Home and National Union parties, under a Likud-orchestrated deal to bolster the right-wing bloc amid sliding poll predictions.
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The deal was met with outrage by Israeli and international onlookers alike, who pointed to Otzma Yehudit's ideological links with the teachings of extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, which inspired the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank.
Kahane's Kach party was banned from political participation on the grounds of racism and incitement in the late 1980s. As the Jerusalem Post explains, "parties can be disqualified from running in an election if they reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, incite to racism, or if they support armed conflict by an enemy state or terrorist organisations against Israel". As such, left-wing parties Meretz and Labor submitted a petition to ban Kach's modern-day reincarnation, Otzma Yehudit, from running in the April election.
In response, however, Likud launched its own petition against Balad, claiming the party "supports terrorist organisations and rejects Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," the Jerusalem Post reported. For its part, Balad hit back at the accusation, saying the party is "here to stay" and calling incumbent Prime Minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu "the new priest of the Kahanists".
Balad also accused Netanyahu of being a "serial inciter against Arab citizens of the state, who tries with all his might to maintain his rule before he is convicted and sent to prison," referring to the myriad corruption cases for which the prime minister was recently indicted.
Meanwhile Otzma Yehudit earlier this week submitted its own petition against Hadash-Ta'al, the ultra-Orthodox Hamodia newspaper reported. The petition claimed that the leaders of the alliance, Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, hold "anti-Israel and pro-terrorist stances" and also took aim at Hadash's only Jewish-Israeli candidate, Ofer Cassif, who has been a vocal critic of Zionism.
Several other petitions against Otzma Yehudit remain outstanding.