Otzma Yehudit member survives petition to ban him from election

Otzma Yehudit member Michael Ben-Ari faced possible elimination from participating in the elections due to his radical views.

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

The announcement by the New Right party that it would vote against a petition to bar Michael Ben-Ari from running in next month’s election saved the Otzma Yehudit party from having its leading member pulled from the Knesset race.

“We are tired of the hypocrisy and the inclusion in the Israeli Knesset of parties which seek to undermine the State of Israel,” the New Right party said. The New Right is led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.

The Israel Central Elections Committee discussed the petition in a raucous debate on Wednesday about whether to disqualify members of Otzma Yehudit, or the “Jewish Strength” party. The party recently raised a firestorm of criticism, particularly among American Jewish organizations, which accused it of racism against Arabs and following in the footsteps of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Only two members of Otzma Yehudit have a reasonable chance of entering the next Knesset, elections for which will be held on April 9. They are Michael Ben-Ari, who has previously served in the Knesset as a member of the National Union party, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, an attorney who has made a name for himself defending Jewish right-wing activists facing trial.

AG favored ban

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, fresh off recommending that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted in three criminal investigations dependent on a hearing, recommended recently that Ben-Ari not be allowed to participate in the elections.

Mandelblit based his decision on recent remarks by Ben-Ari, some of which were posted on Facebook, Times of Israel reports.

The attorney general spotlighted one from August 2018, in which Ben-Ari said: “We have to change the equation regarding anyone who dares to speak against a Jew. [Such a person] is a dead man. He must not come out alive. No expelling him, no stripping him of his citizenship. He does not live! A firing squad takes him out as the Arabs understand [best].”

Mandelblit did not recommend that Otzma Yehudit’s second candidate, Ben-Gvir, be banned, though he said the evidence against him was “extremely disturbing.”

Mandelblit rejected a petition to ban the Arab nationalist Balad (“National Democratic Alliance”) party, citing a “lack of evidence,” Arutz7 reports. Balad is currently running on a joint ticket with the United Arab List.

The New Right party, in their announcement saying they would vote against a ban of Otzma members, did say they supported the ban of Balad.

Efforts to ban Balad have been ongoing but without success. In 2002, Michael Kleiner, then leader of the Herut party, brought a petition before the Israel Central Elections Committee to bar the party on the grounds that “it supports terror organizations, identifies with the enemy and acts against Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”