Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

Israeli court bans far-right Jewish supremacist from election and approves Arab party

The Jewish Power leader reveres extremist rabbi Meir Kahane and has called for attacks against Arabs

Michael Ben-Ari from the Jewish Power party, attends a hearing at Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem March 13, 2019. Picture taken March 13, 2019. Reuters
Michael Ben-Ari from the Jewish Power party, attends a hearing at Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem March 13, 2019. Picture taken March 13, 2019. Reuters

Israel’s highest court has banned a far-right Jewish supremacist politician from running in next month’s election because of his anti-Arab racism while installing an Arab party that had previously been barred from the vote.

The court found in favour of appellants who argued that Michael Ben-Ari of the Jewish Power party had displayed anti-Arab racism. That view was backed by Israel's attorney-general.

Other members of Jewish Power, a small faction that is part of an ultra-nationalist list that last month forged an election alliance with Mr Netanyahu's Likud party, remain eligible to run.

The Central Elections Committee, a monitoring body made up of delegates of parties in the current parliament, last month approved Ben-Ari's candidacy while disqualifying Raam-Balad, a joint party list representing some of Israel's 20 per cent Arab minority.

The Supreme Court rulings were anticipated but they offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who reached a deal to go into an alliance with Michael Ben-Ari and his Jewish Power party, another reason to claim victimhood at the hands of Israel’s judiciary.

He is currently subject to three corruption cases and is expected to be indicted by the country’s attorney general before the April 9 vote.

His bid to ally with the Jewish supremacist party was widely viewed as a desperate move to shore up a right-wing alliance to remain in power for a fifth term that would allow him to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Both he and his election allies have been accused by centre-left rivals of race-baiting and fear-mongering.

Mr Netanyahu's bid for reelection has been challenged by a centrist newcomer, former armed forces chief Benny Gantz. Their escalating exchanges of allegations have included corruption, bigotry, forsaking national security and abetting Israel's foes.

The premier's partnership with Jewish Power also drew rare censure from the US pro-Israel lobby and normally staunch Netanyahu backer AIPAC, which branded the party "racist and reprehensible".

Updated: March 18, 2019 11:32 AM

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