A-G Weinstein Clears Netanyahu Speech to Congress

YERUSHALAYIM -
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein weighed in on a number of election-related issues on Wednesday, giving his opinion as to the legality of the controversial Netanyahu speech to Congress and the eligibility of certain candidates.

Regarding the speech, Weinstein wrote that given its genuine news value, as it bears on an issue of importance to the Israeli public, it cannot be banned. Thus, he rejected the argument presented by Meretz party leader Zahava Gal-On to the High Court that the speech is of a political nature and would violate the law prohibiting the airing of campaign speeches within 30 days of an election.

In response, Gal-On said she was not surprised by Weinstein’s opinion, because he is “dragging his feet when it comes to investigations of the Netanyahu family,” referring to allegations of corruption that have been reported in the media. The Meretz leader expressed hope that Central Election Committee chairman Salim Joubran would override Weinstein.

“If there will be newsworthy elements to the speech, a report will be enough and there is no need to air the entire speech,” she argued. “The attorney general needs to take a broader view of what the interests of the state of Israel are during this election.”

Weinstein also said Wednesday evening that he would not disqualify MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) from running in the elections, adding that this “is not the final word” on the matter.

Although Weinstein acknowledged that the Arab politician’s inflammatory statements have bordered on treason, she had provided sufficient clarifications to mitigate the case against her.

The attorney general termed disqualification a tool that was “an exception within an exception,” to be used only rarely, with the law clearly favoring letting voters decide which candidates are legitimate and which are not.

Regarding the candidacy of the right-wing Baruch Marzel of Yachad, he said that there was insufficient evidence for the charge that he incites to racism and rejects Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Marzel was spokesman for the outlawed Kach organization.

The Elections Committee on late Wednesday rejected a petition to ban Yisrael Beitenu’s campaign slogan “Ariel for Israel, Um-al-Fahm for Palestine” on grounds of racism.

Weinstein had informed Jabroun that the High Court ruled that freedom of speech when in a campaign cannot be restricted merely because it is offensive, only if the ad has a “practical certainty” to cause “danger and public disorder.”

The Central Elections Committee will vote on all petitions to disqualify parties and candidates from running in a 13-hour session scheduled for Thursday. In addition to Zoabi and Marzel, the panel will rule on petitions to ban Yisrael Beitenu, Zionist Camp, Meretz and others.