Election committee chair Salim Jubran ruled Monday that Tsega Melaku did not leave her job at a state-run radio station in time to run for a Knesset seat with Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party.
This is a major blow as Melaku, who immigrated to Israel at the age of 16 from Ethiopia, was supposed to take the third spot in Kulanu, after former IDF major general Yoav Galant.
Israeli law requires certain senior government employees to wait 100 days between leaving their positions and the date of an election they wish to participate in as a candidate, or, in other words, by December 18, 2014, for the upcoming election. This is meant to separate the supposedly apolitical nature of civil service with the entirely political nature of political office.
Parties are required to submit their finalized lists for the upcoming March 17 elections by Thursday, January 29.
Melaku served as director of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority’s Reshet Aleph station from 2008 to 2011 and reported for the station in her native Amharic. Since leaving Reshet Aleph, Melaku has worked as an editor and presenter for the IBA’s International station. She left that job when she was recruited into Kulanu in mid-January.
Melaku gained public notice for her reporting on Magen David Adom’s refusal to accept blood donations from Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s and again for her 2014 autobiographical book, “Not in Our Schools,” which discussed her fight with a Jerusalem school that refused to enroll her son because of his Ethiopian heritage.
The Kulanu party tried to convince the election committee that Melaku’s work at the IBA’s International station should not be considered of the sort that would require the 100-day wait.
Kahlon’s party responded to the election committee’s announcement, saying, “We had studied the issue and held the opinion of veteran lawmakers that Melaku was allowed to run. We deeply regret Judge Jubran’s decision.”
“We see in Melaku, who represents a large community and is a symbol of success in the societal struggles, a meaningful and important asset. And that is why she was placed so high on our list,” the party said in a statement.