Elections Committee Bars Balad Party From Elections

By Yisrael Price

CEC Chairman Yitzhak Amit (L) and Vice Chairman Ilan Bombach at a hearing at the Knesset last week discussing the potential disqualifications of the Balad and Ra’am parties. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM — Arab party politics, already roiled by a split in the Joint List Party, faced further turbulence after the Central Elections Committee disqualified the Balad Party from the November elections.

In a 9-5 decision, the CEC voted on Thursday to bar the party because it refuses to accept the definition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Balad is expected to appeal the ruling to the High Court, which has overturned such moves by the CEC, including in previous cases involving Balad. The decision comes after the committee earlier in the day dismissed a disqualifying motion against Ra’am, the Islamist party that left the Joint List to run separately and became a member of the Bennett-Lapid coalition.

Ra’am was accused of “supporting terror,” but the motion was voted down 14-0, with MKs from Likud, Religious Zionism, Yesh Atid and Labor not present.

Arab leaders were complaining that predominantly Jewish parties friendly toward their communities were standing aside during the CEC vote, including Labor and Yesh Atid.

Hadash-Ta’al, the alliance remaining from the Joint List, accused Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party and Merav Michaeli-led Labor of abandoning them.

“Instead of sending a democratic message of fighting racism, they choose to ignore Arab society and silently agree with the discourse of incitement and harm to its representatives,” it said in a statement.

Whereas in the past Balad’s run has been opposed by right-wing parties, party head Sami Abou Shehadah accused Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz of being behind the ouster.

“The attempt this time to disqualify Balad is an attempt by Gantz and Lapid to engineer an Arab leadership according to their political needs,” Abou Shehadah wrote in a statement released shortly after the committee’s decision.

Gantz said, “The Arab citizens of Israel deserve and are entitled to parliamentary representation, and even to coalition representation, but there are decisions that are above all narrow political considerations. There is no place in the Israeli Knesset for someone who operates in extremes against the state.”

Likud, which skipped the vote, asserted that it was aimed at harming the right wing.

“Today, the circus continues to try to disqualify Balad in order to kasher Ra’am, Hadash and Ta’al,” read a statement by Likud. “The whole process is designed to save votes in the left bloc and harm the right bloc. We will not participate in this show.”

Labor also said it was above “a circus that is entirely held for political purposes.”

In a rare occurrence, CEC chairman Yitzchak Amit allowed a speech by a member of the Forum of Bereaved Families, Merav Hajaj, whose daughter Shir, Hy”d, was killed in a truck-ramming attack in Yerushalayim in 2016. But when Hajaj protested the vote as it was being held, she was escorted out of the room, according to The Jerusalem Post.

A representative of Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara told the committee that she does not support blocking Ra’am, as the evidence that it supports terrorism is insufficient, citing a Shin Bet investigation into the matter. Similarly, Baharav-Miara recommended against disqualifying Balad.

Recent polls show that if Balad does run, it will not cross the electoral threshold to enter the next Knesset. But the thousands of votes cast for it could still influence the overall outcome.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!