Avigdor Liberman
Avigdor LibermanYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Israel's Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the Yisrael Beytenu party could distribute copies of Charlie Hebdo as part of its campaign ahead of a March 17 general election.  

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman's party had already displayed copies of the French satirical magazine that featured an image of the founder of Islam Mohammed at a publicity stunt in Tel Aviv earlier this month.

But party activists stopped short of distributing them on that occasion while the Supreme Court decided whether or not to uphold a decision by the electoral commission that giving out the magazines for free was tantamount to bribery.  

"In the form of election propaganda, (Yisrael Beytenu) are allowed to distribute the special issue of Charlie Hebdo to voters," the court said.

"It is legitimate electoral propaganda."

On February 5, members of the party, their mouths symbolically taped shut, set up a stall in the heart of Israel's commercial capital and displayed copies of Charlie Hebdo for public perusal.  

That issue - released a week after a deadly attack by Islamist gunmen on Charlie Hebdo's office in Paris - had courted controversy by featuring a cartoon of Mohammed, drawing condemnation - and veiled threats - from Muslim leaders.

"We will not surrender, and we will publish whatever we like, whenever we like," Liberman said at the time.

Charlie Hebdo's print version is not available for purchase in Israel.

Liberman applauded the High Court’s decision, saying it sent "an important message that Israel remains a Jewish and democratic State that does not give in to threats and violence on the part of Arab MKs who attempt to turn Israel into an ISIS ("Islamic State") state."

"I applaud that High Court for making the right decision," Liberman added. 

AFP contributed to this report.