Balad party appeals its election disqualification to the High Court

Arab nationalist faction accuses Defense Minister Gantz and Prime Minister Lapid of ‘engineering’ ploy designed to shape political map

Balad supporters wave the Palestinian and the party flag at campaign launch in Baqa al-Gharbiya on September 24, 2022. (Courtesy)
Balad supporters wave the Palestinian and the party flag at campaign launch in Baqa al-Gharbiya on September 24, 2022. (Courtesy)

Arab nationalist party Balad appealed to the High Court on Tuesday to overturn an election vetting panel’s decision to disqualify it from the upcoming Knesset election.

In a statement, Balad accused Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s National Unity party of trying to prevent his faction from “exercising its democratic right.” Gantz instructed his representatives on the Central Elections Committee panel to vote to bar the faction from running.

Balad chair Sami Abou Shahadeh labeled the committee’s decision last week a ploy by Gantz and Prime Minister Yair Lapid to “engineer political leadership” to their needs. The party leader vowed to carry on Balad’s “legitimate political struggle.”

The High Court appeal was filed with the assistance of the Adalah human rights organization, after the Central Elections Committee voted Thursday to bar the party from running, accepting a petition claiming the party’s platform negated the existence of the State of Israel.

The coalition Ra’am party faced a similar petition, which alleged that it supported terror organizations, but the panel ruled against the request.

Section 7A of Basic Law: The Knesset defines the conditions for disqualifying a candidate or party as being: if its goals or actions either explicitly or implicitly harm the state in one of the following three ways: “(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; (2) incitement to racism; (3) support for armed struggle by a hostile state or by a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.”

Balad party head Sami Abu Shehadeh speaks at an Central Elections Committee meeting against disqualifying Balad from running in the upcoming elections, September 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Balad and several of its lawmakers have been disqualified by past elections panels, and have so far won every appeal to the Supreme Court to be reinstated.

According to polls, Balad is not expected to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold to enter the next Knesset. If it does not, its failure could lead to the nullification of a significant number of Arab votes, which could play a potentially key role in the predicted deadlock between rival political blocs in favor of the right wing-religious bloc led by Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu.

That possibility pushed political stakeholders to reconsider their approaches to Balad’s candidacy. Whereas in the past Balad’s run has been opposed by right-wing parties, Abou Shehadah this time accused Lapid and Gantz — whose centrist parties are presumably poised to gain from Balad’s ouster — of engineering the takedown.

Netanyahu’s Likud party, on the other hand, boycotted the Central Elections Committee’s hearings on Ra’am and Balad, calling the matter a “political circus” geared toward harming its right-wing bloc.

Renegade ex-Yamina lawmaker Amichai Chikli has also appealed to the High Court this week against his own disqualification from running with Likud in the November 1 election.

Both High Court hearings are slated for Thursday afternoon.

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