With the Israeli election just over a month away, a progressive Jewish group has filed a petition to disqualify a far-right political party, in what appears to be an attempt by the left to make political grounds even before electorates cast their vote on 17 September.
The Reform Movement, which is a branch of Progressive Judaism, petitioned the Central Elections Committee to prevent the Otzma Yehudit party (Jewish Power) and candidates Itamar Ben-Gvir, Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein from running in the upcoming election.
They enjoyed partial victory before the April election when they successfully managed to get Otzma candidate and leader Michael Ben-Ari disqualified but were nevertheless left disappointed after the Central Elections Committee decided against banning the far-right party altogether.
The committee had mulled barring Otzma Yehudit from contesting April's election due to its anti-Palestinian rhetoric, however the Supreme Court eventually deciding only to ban Ben Ari from the slate.
The party announced that it would contest September's election alone, confirming a split with the Union of Right Wing Parties (URWP) – a right-wing alliance of the Jewish Home and National Union parties – with which it had a working arrangement ahead of the April election.
Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) politician Itamar Ben-Gvir was thrown out of the Israeli Army for racism, and his party is running despite the Attorney General suggesting the party should be banned. #IsraElex19
— Middle East Monitor (@MiddleEastMnt) March 16, 2019
The petitioners say that they are optimistic of a more positive outcome on this occasion. "We have a good chance with both Marzel and Gopstein and we have new evidence on Ben-Gvir that we didn't have before," Democratic Union Knesset candidate Rabbi Gilad Kariv is quoted saying by the Jerusalem Post.
"Last time, the committee and the Supreme Court said Ben-Gvir was close to the red line but told us our evidence was too old. So this time we concentrated our appeal on his recent statements that prove he is loyal to the path of [the late extremist Rabbi Meir] Kahane and continues his incitement to racism all the time," Kariv continued.
#IsraElex19: Israeli Elections 2019
Kahane was the leader of Kach party, which was banned from the Knesset in the 1980s. Kahane's ideology inspired Baruch Goldstein's 1994 massacre at Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque, which left 29 Muslim worshippers dead and scores wounded.
The move has been slammed by the members of Otzma. "The Left sees how much support we have, so they realize that if they don't disqualify us, we will get in to the Knesset," Marzel said. "If they thought we didn't have a chance, they wouldn't bother presenting the request."
The deadline for submissions of disqualification requests is set to 10pm local time (20:00 GMT). In that period the Democratic Union and Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) party are also expected to request Otzma's disqualification. It's reported that a counter petition has been filed by Otzma requesting the disqualification of Blue and White's number two candidate, Yair Lapid.