Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed on Thursday that renegade ex-MK Amichai Chikli would be made a minister if the Likud leader regains power — a day after the Central Elections Committee barred Chikli from running with Likud in the upcoming election.
Inviting Chikli on stage next to him at a campaign event in Ramle, Netanyahu called him a “fighter for truth and justice.”
“Amichai, those who don’t want you as an MK will get you as a minister,” the former prime minister said.
Israel allows the appointment of ministers who are not elected members of the Knesset.
Chikli, who had been placed by Netanyahu in 14th place on Likud’s electoral slate, entered the Knesset last year with Yamina, but refused to vote in favor of the big tent coalition it enabled and led, and was later ejected from the faction.
The left-wing Meretz party filed the petition to knock Chikli out of the race, claiming that he did not resign in a timely manner after leaving Yamina and thus should be personally sanctioned from running with a sitting Knesset party in November, in accordance with election bylaws.
Likud has said it will petition the Supreme Court to overturn the election panel decision, a standard practice. The Supreme Court has a history of overturning such decisions in most cases.
Speaking at multiple campaign rallies on Thursday night, Netanyahu capitalized on the Chikli decision to paint the Central Elections Committee as a politically biased body.
“The elections committee is trying to bring down the right-wing government even before the elections… They disqualify Chikli, but they allow Ayman Odeh who says Nasrallah is a wonderful example, and Ahmad Tibi who says Hamas is not a terrorist organization,” the Likud leader said.
Netanyahu told the crowd that the committee’s decisions were a “setup” designed to “bring down the right” and “leave the left” standing.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar of the National Unity party slammed Netanyahu’s comments, labeling him and Likud leaders “cowards” for remaining silent as Arab parties Balad and Ra’am were disqualified by the committee.
Sa’ar also accused the former prime minister of “incitement” against the Central Elections Committee.
“There is no state institution that he wouldn’t destroy if he gets to return to power. We won’t let him,” Sa’ar tweeted.
Chikli lamented Wednesday’s decision to bar him, describing it as “bizarre and political,” and calling it “an unparalleled injustice.”
Meretz will also be turning to the Supreme Court after the Central Election Committee declined to disqualify Chikli’s former Yamina colleague Idit Silman from running in November’s election.
Like Chikli, Meretz claimed that Silman did not resign before the deadline, and is therefore disqualified from joining the Likud party, according to “Basic Law: The Knesset’s Section 6a,” however, the committee rejected the petition.
Joshua Davidovich contributed to this report.