Central Election Committee discusses Otzma Yehudit disqualification amidst row
After AG recommends the committee denies Marzel and Gopstein's run for Knesset due to 'overwhelming' proof of racism and incitement, Shaffir blames Otzma Yehudit for bullying her online and Ben Gvir calls her a liar; Justice Melcer silences Shaffir's microphone as row intensifies
The Knesset's Central Election Committee (CEC), headed by Justice Hanan Melcer, met Wednesday morning, 34 days before the September elections, to discuss three disqualification requests of parties Otzma Yehudit, the Arab Joint List, and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.
The discussions dealt with filings against the participation of entire party lists along with specific candidates in the coming elections for parliament, such as Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben Gvir and Ben-Zion Gopstein from Otzma Yehudit party.
During the meeting, clashes between former MK and Democratic Camp candidate Stav Shaffir and Justice Melcer lead to Shaffir's microphone being shut down, after she was asked to step down from the podium and refused to do so.
This followed a clash between Shaffir and Otzma Yehudit party members, after she said that anyone who objects the far-right party's opinions receives threats.
Shaffir called Otzama Yehudit "an anti-Zionist and anti-democratic party" and said it should be disqualified; she added that the party chair Ben Gvir published her personal contact details online as an act of bullying and said dozens of treats on her life followed.
Ben Gvir called Shaffir a liar and said she "isn't even interesting enough to be threatened."
When Shaffir refused to leave the podium Justice Melcer asked that her microphone will be shut off.
Attorney Oded Gazit, who represents the Blue and White Party in their plea to disqualify Otzma Yehudit, said that Gopstein defines himself as a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane, adding that "the Lehava organization, headed by Gopstein, walks the streets on Thursday nights and hits innocent people."
He added that the Lehava far-right youth group was responsible for the arson of the Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem, at which point Ben Gvir and Gopstein lashed out at Gazit and said there are no evidence backing his accusations.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit sent the committee on Tuesday his office’s recommendations. According to the recommendations, the committee should deny Marzel and Gopstein run for Israel’s Knesset, on the grounds of “racist” and “incitement” allegations, though excluding Ben Gvir and the Otzma Yehudit party as a whole.
"There is a critical mass of evidence, much more than needed, proving that there has been severe, clear and undisputed incitement to racism by them (Gopstein, Marzel) over the years," said the Attorney General.
Mandelblit found no reason to disqualify Yesh Atid and the Arab Joint List.
Any disqualification decision by the CEC demands approval of the High Court, and thus the committee itself has no real power to decide on the disqualification of candidates.
The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel Adalah issued Tuesday a response to the request filed by Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir and the Otzma Yehudit party to the CEC, saying it was motivated by racism.
Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh said, "there is no other way to say it: This is a request to disqualify the political representation of all Arab citizens. This racist move will be discussed tomorrow by the CEC, a political body some of whose party members promote campaigns of incitement and hate on a daily basis."