Daily Israel Report

Arab Party Threatens Separatist Move

Israeli Arabs warned of a move towards separatism. The Balad party, banned from the Knesset elections, threatened to set up a separate parliament.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 1/15/2009, 6:38 AM / Last Update: 1/15/2009, 11:38 AM

Israel News Photo-Flash 90

The Balad National Democratic Assembly Arab party, which the Knesset Elections Committee has banned from the upcoming elections because of its anti-Israel agenda, has warned it will set up an Arab parliament if the High Court does not overturn the committee's ruling.

"If we can't be elected to parliament, we'll establish one of our own," threatened Balad Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka.

The Knesset committee explained that the party cannot run because it supports terrorism, does not recognize the State of Israel and incites violence. The High Court previously has ruled against a similar decision by the Knesset, but there is no guarantee that it will do so this time.

Ex-MK Azmi Bishara, who formerly headed the party, fled Israel last year during an investigation that ended with his being indicted for aiding the Lebanese Hizbullah terrorist organization in the Second Lebanon War.

The predominantly Arab Hadash party, which includes Jewish MK Dov Kheinin, objected to Balad's move as separatist.

As lawyers prepare the petition to the High Court, MK Zahalka said, "The banning of the Arab parties will give rise to a serious crisis in the relations between the state and its Arab citizens. All the parties voted for the ban, but parties that wish to rule the country must understand that this is not in their best interest. They are waiting for the court to rescue them."

Most major parties, including Kadima and Labor, backed the Election Committee decision, which was made on an initiative sponsored by the National Union and Israel Is Our Home parties (Yisrael Beiteinu).