One man’s terror backer is another party’s MK: 6 things to know for February 10
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One man’s terror backer is another party’s MK: 6 things to know for February 10

Top court narrowly approves candidacy of Joint List member, sparking outrage from right while adding further fuel to its campaign against justice system and majority-Arab party

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during the Central Elections Committee discussion of requests to disqualify Joint List party candidate Heba Yazbak from running in the upcoming Knesset elections on January 29, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during the Central Elections Committee discussion of requests to disqualify Joint List party candidate Heba Yazbak from running in the upcoming Knesset elections on January 29, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. They’ve got her Yaz-ba[c]k: In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court overruled a Central Elections Committee decision that barred Joint List MK Heba Yazbak from running again in March 2’s elections, sparking some serious outrage from the right side of the political spectrum.

  • The top legal body narrowly determined that while Facebook posts publicized by Yazbak lauding terrorists were inappropriate, there was not a critical mass of statements that justified disqualification.
  • “Heba Yazbak and her friends should sit in the parliament in Ramallah and not in the Knesset,” says Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman. “The fact that the court overturned the decision of the Central Elections Commission and allowed Yazbak to run in the upcoming elections is a prize for supporters of terrorism.”
  • The national religious Yamina party says in a statement that “the Supreme Court judges proved once again tonight that they have for a long time now not been occupied with pursuing justice, but with pursuing liberal leftist politics and agendas.”
  • Israel Hayom leads its front page with the quote, “Supreme Court justices gave authorization to a terror supporter.” Who the line belongs to is unclear because it goes unattributed, but that doesn’t stop the Netanyahu mouthpiece from reporting it matter-of-factly.
  • Channel 12’s Amit Segal argues that the court views racism with greater severity than it does terrorism, saying that this is the only way to explain the judges’ decision to disqualify candidates from the far-right Otzma Yehudit party ahead of the last two elections while okaying Yazbak’s run this time around.

2. Win-win: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasts the ruling as an embarrassment before quickly going into campaign mode. “From this day forward, Benny Gantz will be reliant on Heba Yazbak, who praises terrorists, because without the Joint List, Gantz has no way of forming a government.”

  • Guy Ezra from the Srugim national religious outlet says that while the ruling marks a win for Yazbak, who gets to run in the March election, Netanyahu also gains as it bolsters his campaign to portray the courts as bodies run by leftists.
  • Moreover, he can add Yazbak to the list of MKs Blue and White will allegedly be required to rely on in order to form a coalition, joining Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi and likely any other MK with an Arab sounding name that would fit into the fear-mongering campaign.
  • But for  one of the five Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of Yazbak’s run, the decision hit painfully close to home. Justice Anat Baron lost a son in the Mike’s Place terror attack on the Tel Aviv beachfront in April 2003, a bombing subsequently claimed by both the Hamas and Fatah factions.
  • In her decision, she acknowledges “the temptation to rule according to one’s feelings is powerful. Even so, we must be vigilant not to let that temptation overpower the strict criteria [set in law] that alone could justify barring a candidate from standing for Knesset. That is the question before us awaiting our decision.”

3. Un-friendly fire: After another night of rocket fire from Gaza directed at Israel’s southern communities, lawmakers respond by lobbing insults at one another.

  • Likud Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan blasts Defense Minister Naftali Bennett for not doing enough to combat the rockets and arson balloons, telling Army Radio that before the Yamina chairman had entered his new post he had savaged the government for such combat.
  • Bennett responds by telling Erdan that if he isn’t happy with the Netanyahu government’s strategy vis a vis Gaza, he is welcome to resign from the cabinet.
  • Erdan fires back that he’d be happy to do so and that Bennett just needs to send the draft version he used to make similar resignation threats that he never followed up on.
  • The good (or bad?) television continued at the Knesset where Blue and White called an emergency session to discuss the situation in the south. Almost nobody showed up for the  merely symbolic hearing aside from MKs from the centrist alliance. Bennett did manage to attend, but when he rose to the podium to speak, all of the Blue and White lawmakers proceeded to stand up and exit the plenum.
  • “Benny Gantz and Bogie Ya’alon, continue to run away just like you did in 2014,” yelled Bennett, referring to what he has long asserted was the former IDF chief of staff and defense minister’s refusal to deal with the threat of the Gaza attack tunnels during the 50-day Operation Protective Edge.

4. Special victims unit: A former Jerusalem police chief has been sentenced to 10 months in prison and five months of probation after being convicted on charges of sexual assault, fraud and breach of trust.

  • The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court orders Nissan “Niso” Shaham compensate two victims with NIS 1,500 (approximately $400) and another victim with NIS 500 (approximately $150).
  • In his opening remarks at the sentencing, Judge Shmuel Melamed says that Shaham had caused harm to the public with his actions and noted how difficult it could be for a former senior police officer to serve time in prison.
  • The sentence came hours after another major development in a sex crimes case when a Jerusalem court extended the remand of convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland by five days, following a wide-reaching investigation into allegations he fleeced terminally ill followers out of money with promises to heal them and pocketed millions of shekels in fees.
  • The Times of Israel’s Marissa Newman breaks down the case against the cult-leading convicted sex offender rabbi who believes he has the power to heal the sick, which includes 21 charges and over 200 witnesses.
  • The Kan public broadcaster reports police are also looking into separate allegations that Berland and his followers are involved in the disappearance of a 17-year-old boy who had came to the 82-year-old rabbi for spiritual guidance some 30 years ago.

5. Promises were made: Settler leaders react in fury to US Ambassador David Friedman’s clarification that the White House will not support immediate and uncoordinated annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel.

  • “Sometimes even dear friends need to be put in their place and told that… we are a sovereign country and sovereignty will be extended to Judea and Samaria as the public in the State of Israel expects,” says Samaria Regional Council chairman in a statement, calling on Netanyahu to fulfill his promise to immediately annex the settlements and the Jordan Valley
  • Interviewed on I24News, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi warns Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz that if his party continues to support the Trump plan’s allowing of Israel to annex parts of the West Bank, he can say goodbye to any recommendations from the majority-Arab party that he relied on to be tasked with forming the government after the last election.
  • Meanwhile, AFP reports that a reworked Palestinian UN Security Council resolution has dropped its initial condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan, opting for less confrontational language.
  • The latest draft also no longer mentions the United States by name as the plan’s author, and couches its criticism in milder language than in the original, AFP reveals.

6. Oscars so foreign: While there were still plenty of white people at this year’s Academy Awards, it was a foreign film that took home the top prize, with the South Korean comedy “Parasite” winning Best Picture.

  • “Parasite,” about a poor South Korean family infiltrating a wealthy household, won a total of four awards, defying the received wisdom that the Academy would overlook a subtitled Asian movie.
  • Best adapted screenplay went to Nazi satire “Jojo Rabbit,” about a young boy corrupted by fascism. Taika Waititi, who is of Maori origin, said he hoped the win would inspire “all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories.”
  • No female directors were nominated this year, a theme referred to by several celebrities. Natalie Portman, a Best Actress Oscar winner in 2011 for “Black Swan,” literally wore her feelings — she had their names stitched into the Dior cape she wore to the gala.
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