Coalition lawmakers are reportedly putting together a proposal that would change the criteria for banning candidates from running for the Knesset, making it easier to push out Arab-led parties and MKs representing some 20 percent of Israel’s population.
According to a report Tuesday by Channel 12 news, the bill being advanced by coalition chairman MK Ofir Katz of Likud will make it possible to bar candidates for isolated comments deemed supportive of terror, including support for an attacker, rather than an entire terror group. Among the acts that would be construed as support for terror would be visiting the family of an attack suspect.
Such criteria would disqualify most of the current Arab lawmakers in the Knesset, according to the report.
In addition, the bill would enable disqualifying an entire party from running, even if it is part of a joint slate with other parties, an obstacle that has in the past prevented barring Palestinian nationalist factions that were running in an alliance with other parties.
Currently, candidates can only be banned from running if there is a significant body of evidence that they have supported terror.
The report said coalition heads agreed when setting up the government to pursue legislation aimed at kicking Arab-led parties out of the Knesset, but are concerned that any such measure would be quashed by the High Court, and so are waiting for legislation that will shackle the court’s ability to strike down laws. That legislation, known as the override clause, is a key part of a planned judicial overhaul that will significantly shift power from the courts to politicians.
MK Ayman Odeh, leader of Hadash-Ta’al alliance of Arab parties, responded to the report in a tweet, saying “the struggle for democracy needs to be a struggle for democracy for all.”
“We, the Arabs, cannot block the fascists by ourselves, but without us, the democratic Jews [also] can’t,” he said.
There have been numerous attempts in the past to have individual Arab candidates or entire parties banned from running during election campaigns via petition to the Central Elections Committee. Right-wing and nationalist parties in the Knesset, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, accuse Arab lawmakers of supporting terror due to their backing for Palestinian nationalism. Some, including Odeh, have visited terror suspects or their families.
Ahead of the most recent November election, the CEC banned the Arab nationalist Balad party after accepting a petition claiming the party’s platform negates the existence of the State of Israel. Though the High Court of Justice later overturned the ban, the party ultimately failed to pass the threshold for entry into the Knesset.
Netanyahu now leads the most right-wing and religious government in Israel’s history.
Last month the far-right Otzma Yehudit party said that in coalition negotiations Netanyahu had agreed with its leader Itamar Ben Gvir to pass legislation that will end a ban on individuals who incite to racism serving in the Knesset.
The move appeared to be a bid by Ben Gvir, now the national security minister, to allow far-right allies previously barred from the Knesset over racist comments and positions to run for parliament in the future.