Labor, Meretz seek to bar Otzma Yehudit from elections

Parties separately petition Central Elections Committee to disqualify extremists, who dismiss the requests as ‘gimmicks’

Labor MK Stav Shaffir in the Knesset on July 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Labor MK Stav Shaffir in the Knesset on July 22, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Meretz and Labor parties have separately called for the extremist Otzma Yehudit party to be barred from running in upcoming elections.

Both parties filed petitions Monday with the Central Elections Committee.

Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg wrote on Twitter that Otzma Yehudit has “acted to inflame passions” and has called for “harming the Arab population” following terror attacks.

The right-wing extremist party’s support for Kahanism and its attempts to revive rabbi Meir Kahane’s teachings further incited the public to “despicable and unacceptable racism,” Zandberg wrote.

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg leads a faction meeting Knesset on November 12, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

She said Meretz had requested Otzma Yehudit be barred “until they commit themselves to depart from their path and act in accordance with the provisions of the law and the basic principles of the State of Israel.”

Stav Shaffir, number four on the Labor party’s slate, also petitioned the committee to disqualify the party.

Shaffir appealed to the committee in response to an investigation by Yedioth Ahronoth that said members of Otzma Yehudit received funding from a network of American organizations, including a Jewish body that the United States has blacklisted as a terror group.

“It is inconceivable that those calling for [population] transfer, racial segregation between Jews and non-Jews, violent attacks on non-Jews, and people that are partners in an organization that the United States, our most important partner in the world, defines as a terrorist organization, could serve in the Knesset,” Shaffir said, according to the Ynet news site.

Otzma Yehudit dismissed the two petitions, calling them “gimmicks” that the two parties were using to gain support ahead of elections.

“The Meretz petition and the letter by MK Stav Shaffir are embarrassing, and it is clear that no legal advice was taken before the petition and the letter were drafted,” Otzma Yehudit said, according to Channel 12 news.

Michael Ben Ari, head of far-right Otzma Yehudit, and supporters at a Tel Aviv demonstration, November 15, 2018. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

“It’s again clear that the parties that celebrate freedom of expression are hypocrites,” the party said.

Also on Monday, former defense minister Avigdor Liberman issued harsh criticism of Otzma Yehudit, branding its members “delusional” and saying he would not greet them if they entered the Knesset.

The extremist Otzma Yehudit is the spiritual successor to Kahane’s Kach party, which was barred from the Knesset under a Basic Law outlawing incitement to violence and later banned entirely in Israel.

It supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank.

The national religious Jewish Home party voted overwhelmingly last week to approve a merger with Otzma Yehudit. The merger deal was facilitated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to strengthen a future Likud-led coalition following the April 9 election and has since been widely condemned, including by mainstream US Jewish organizations.

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