AG opposes Otzma Yehudit request to bump up candidate on right-wing list
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AG opposes Otzma Yehudit request to bump up candidate on right-wing list

If barred by election committee from replacing disqualified candidate Michael Ben Ari with Itamar Ben Gvir, extremist faction could be left without representation in Knesset

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir arrives for a court hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on October 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir arrives for a court hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on October 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit recommended on Wednesday that the Central Elections Committee reject the request of Otzma Yehudit candidate Itamar Ben Gvir to move up two spots on the Union of Right Wing Parties’ Knesset slate in order to take the place of his disqualified colleague Michael Ben Ari.

The attorney general argued that “the Central Elections Committee is not authorized to change the order of the candidates on the lists submitted to it.”

While Mandelblit recognized the unique circumstance that led the Union of Right Wing Parties to make the appeal, he said that “as long as the existing law remains in place, there is no legal mechanism to grant the request.”

The attorney general’s position was given at the request of Hanan Melcer, the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, which will hand down a final decision on the matter in the coming days.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Notably, the last time Mandelblit made a recommendation to the committee regarding Otzma Yehudit — that its chairman Michael Ben Ari be disqualified over his incitement to racism — the elections body disregarded his view by green-lighting the candidacy of the right-wing extremist on March 6.

However, a group of opposition lawmakers appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which in an 8-1 decision on Sunday officially barred Ben Ari from running because of his anti-Arab ideology and incitement.

The ruling marked the first time in the court’s history that the candidacy of an individual, rather than a party or faction, has been barred.

Otzma Yehudit party’s Michael Ben Ari attends a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 14, 2019, to be allowed to run for a Knesset seat. ( GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

Ben Ari had been placed at number five on the URWP list, which is an amalgam of the Jewish Home, National Union and Otzma Yehudit. The latter party’s number 2, its only other candidate on the URWP slate, Ben Gvir, was placed at number eight.

While all candidates ranked below Ben Ari moved up one spot — making Ben Gvir number 7 — Otzma Yehudit wants to try to ensure that at least one of its candidates will make it into the next Knesset. The slate of right-wing parties is polling at roughly six or seven seats in recent polls, placing Ben Gvir at risk of not making into the Knesset if he is not bumped up to the fifth spot.

Responding to the attorney general recommendation, Ben Gvir said that “the impression created is that the attorney general and the State Prosecutor’s Office will do anything in order to prevent Otzma Yehudit’s candidates from making it into the Knesset.” The activist-attorney said that those efforts would prove futile and that he would enter the legislative body regardless.

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