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Lieberman party petitions to disqualify Arab party chief from running in elections 

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
The then Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on 24 December, 2014 in Tel Aviv [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

The Yisrael Beiteinu party, led by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, filed a petition on Sunday with the Central Elections Committee seeking the disqualification of the chief of the Arab Balad party in Israel from running in upcoming Knesset elections.

The Israeli right-wing party asked its members within the committee to sign the petition against Sami Abu Shehadeh, head of the Balad party.

At least a third of the 34 election committee members must sign the petition for it to be approved.

Lieberman's party asserted in a statement reported by Israeli media that Abu Shahadeh "must be outside of the Israeli Knesset."

It argued: "One [Abu Shehadeh] who denies the existence of the State of Israel and does not recognise it as a Jewish and democratic state is not worthy of being part of [the Knesset] — it is fitting for him to be part of the parliament in Ramallah, that's his place."

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The extremist party said that the petition was submitted under Article 7A of the Basic Law of the Knesset, which states that candidates for Knesset must be disqualified if they deny the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

According to the same article, inciting racism and supporting an armed struggle of an enemy state or a terrorist organisation against the State of Israel are reasons for disqualifying candidacy for the Knesset.

In response to this, Balad urged that it was "an attempt to silence the uncompromising political voice" of Abu Shehadeh.

Speaking to Israeli Army Radio, Abu Shehadeh said that he believed Liberman made a move to attract headlines as his own right-wing party hovers near the electoral threshold.

"I am not interested in this violent man (Liberman), who supports transferring [Arab citizens out of Israel]… Liberman is not far from the electoral threshold and therefore is trying to attract extremist voters," Abu Shahadeh indicated.

Head of the Meretz faction, Knesset member Michal Rozin, has already said her party would oppose this request, The Times of Israel reported.

In several previous races, Likud petitioned the Central Elections Committee to disqualify Balad members, accusing them of inciting terrorism, The Times of Israel reported

However, Ynet News reported a pro-Netanyahu Likud official on Friday saying that the Likud chairperson now prefers for Balad to be allowed to run so that it can further waste Arab votes and lead all Arab parties to fail to cross the electoral threshold.

Ynet News reported the Likud official saying that Netanyahu will work behind the scenes to ensure that no one from his right-wing religious bloc files a petition to disqualify Balad.

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