Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

Israel's top court allows Arab MP to run in election

The country's election body tried to bar Heba Yazbak from the March vote, accusing her of supporting 'terrorists'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second right, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, Sunday, February 9, 2020. AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second right, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, Sunday, February 9, 2020. AP

Israel's Supreme Court has overturned a decision by the country's election body to bar an Arab politician from running in next month's parliamentary election.

The court narrowly upheld the candidacy of Heba Yazbak in a vote of five to four. She had been accused of supporting "terrorists" as a member of the Arab nationalist Balad party and the Arab Joint List coalition. She has sat in Israel's parliament, known as the Knesset, since last April's vote.

A petition alleged she supported armed struggle against Israel and had praised militants who killed Israelis.

Ms Yazbak was targeted in particular over a Facebook post in support of Samir Kantar, a member of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah who was convicted of murdering three Israelis, including a four-year-old girl, in 1979.

"There was no 'critical mass' of formal evidence to justify disqualifying her," said the supreme court, which took into account "remorse" expressed by Ms Yazbak.

Members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party had joined forces with the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu in the petition to disqualify Ms Yazbak.

The two parties seek the disqualification of parties which challenge the Jewish character of Israel or which support armed opposition to the Jewish state.

"Those who want Heba in the opposition and not in government must vote only for Likud," the Likud party wrote on Twitter after the court's decision was announced.

Israel's top court barred two members of the extreme-right party Jewish Power from running in the September 2019 elections over "incitement to racism."

The March 2 polls are Israel's third in less than a year, after national polls in April and September failed to yield a governing coalition.

Mr Netanyahu's right wing Likud party was deadlocked with centrist Benny Gantz's Blue and White party in both the 2019 elections.

Updated: February 10, 2020 11:04 AM

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