Yesh Atid joins appeal to bar extremist faction from running in elections
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Labor candidate walks out of event because Ben Gvir on panel

Yesh Atid joins appeal to bar extremist faction from running in elections

Centrist party says it is prepared to do ‘everything in its power’ to stop Otzma Yehudit from entering Knesset

Michael Ben Ari, center, Itamar Ben Gvir, left, and Lehava chair Benzi Gopstein, all of the Otzma Yehudit party, at an event in Jerusalem marking the 27th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Meir Kahane, November 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Michael Ben Ari, center, Itamar Ben Gvir, left, and Lehava chair Benzi Gopstein, all of the Otzma Yehudit party, at an event in Jerusalem marking the 27th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Meir Kahane, November 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Yesh Atid party announced Tuesday it will join an appeal to bar candidates from the extremist Otzma Yehudit faction from running for the Knesset.

“The decision is a result of Yesh Atid’s commitment to do everything in its power to prevent the entry of Kahane’s followers into the Knesset,” the party said in a statement.

The move comes a day after the Labor and Meretz parties submitted petitions to the Central Elections Committee against Otzma Yehudit’s participation in national elections on April 9.

With the decision of Yesh Atid’s representatives on the committee to join the appeal, it now has the minimum number of signatures needed to be brought up for debate.

Yesh Atid last week teamed up with retired general Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience to form the Blue and White electoral alliance, but as the committee is made up of parties from the outgoing Knesset none of the latter party’s members are represented.

“We’re happy for the endorsement and thank all the parties who joined. A terror organization has no place in the Knesset,” Meretz wrote on its official Twitter account.

Michael Ben Ari (left) speaks during a ceremony honoring the late Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in a Jerusalem hall, October 26 2010. At right is Baruch Marzel (Yossi Zamir / Flash 90)

Otzma Yehudit, whose leaders are disciples of Jewish supremacist Rabbi Meir Kahane, fired back that Yesh Atid’s joining of the petition showed Gantz wants to form a government with Arab parties, a claim that has also been leveled at the former military chief by Prime Minister Netanyahu and other right-wing factions.

“The cat is out of the bag. It turns out Gantz is seeking to establish a government with the votes of the terrorists’ representatives in the Knesset and is winking at them when he joins the request for disqualification,” Otzma Yehudit said in a statement quoted by the Haaretz daily.

Any decision by the Central Elections Committee to block Otzma Yehudit from running would then come before the Supreme Court, which in the last election cycle overruled bans on an Arab lawmaker and a far-right right activist now in Otzma Yehudit from participating in the elections.

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.

Emilie Moatti attends a Labor Party campaign event in Tel Aviv, January 23, 2019.(Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Separately, Labor hopeful Emilie Moatti walked out of a pre-election event at a high school on Tuesday in protest of Otzma Yehudit member Itamar Ben Gvir’s inclusion on the panel of candidates.

“I can’t find a reason to stay on a panel on which sits a representative who shared in the incitement that led to [prime minister Yitzhak] Rabin’s murder,” Moatti said.

She appeared to be referring to a TV interview with weeks before Rabin’s assassination in which a young Ben Gvir held up the emblem that he managed to rip off prime minister’s Cadillac. ““We got the car. We’ll get to Rabin too,” he said at the time.

Responding to Moatti, Ben Gvir decried “hypocrites” who he said would sit in a government with Arab MKs Hanin Zoabi and Ahmad Tibi.

“This is the best lesson in democracy,” he said to apparent cheers from the high-schoolers in Netanya.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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