The Central Elections Committee decided on Monday to disqualify the Israeli-Arab Balad and Ra'am Ta'al parties from running in the upcoming elections – because of their opposition to Israel’s existence. The motion to disqualify the parties passed with an overwhelming majority of 26 in favor to three against. However, if past experience is any indication, the Supreme Court is liable to overturn the decision.
Balad is an Arab party that was long headed by former Knesset Member Azmi Bishara, who fled the country in 2006 as he was being investigated for allegedly aiding Hizbullah during the Second Lebanon War. Three requests were submitted to disqualify the party - by the National Union, Yisrael Beiteinu, and a Shinui party member. The background of the requests was the same for all: Balad does not recognize Israel as a Jewish State, and supports armed struggle against the nation in whose parliament it seeks to maintain membership.
The Supreme Court has overturned a similar disqualification decision in the past, and is seen as likely to do so again. Arab Parliamentarian Ahmed Tibi even said during the Committee session, “Everyone knows that in the end, the Supreme Court will overturn [it]. You are merely trying to take advantage of the current war to jump on the Arab parties.”
The legal counsel for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Yoav Meni, told the Elections Committee, “The public cannot understand what is happening in our country. How can it be that a Knesset Member travels to Arab countries with an Israeli diplomatic passport and takes part in Hizbullah conferences and funerals of arch-terrorists? They call our Independence Day their ‘Catastrophe Day,’ and they don’t want us here; they only want an Arab majority. The public watches and can’t believe what’s going on.”
“The [Arab] Knesset Members say outright that Israel cannot be a State of Jews,” Meni said. “Azmi Bishara is Balad and Balad is Bishara, just like Rabin is Labor and Begin is Likud.”
Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, a Knesset candidate for the National Union party, said, “These are our genuine enemies. They use the Knesset phones in order to harm our country. They should be put behind bars. Tibi visited Lebanon, and we don’t know what he did there. How can we allow ourselves to make the same mistake twice?”
Knesset Member Jamal Zehalka, the successor to Bishara as Balad’s Chairman, said, “We are active in all areas, and we have chapters all over and members of all religions. We have an ideology, and we stand behind every word in our platform.”
Arab Knesset Members screamed in fury as the decision passed, calling the state of Israel "fascist and racist." Zehalka yelled at committee chairman and Parliamentarian David Tal, "You are fascists, you hate Arabs." "Go back to Syria," Tal responded.
An appeal of the decision is likely to be made to the Supreme Court in the coming days.