'Terror backers can serve in Knesset - father of soldiers can't'

'The conclusion of this absurd political theater was expected and predictable,' says Smotrich, after court bars former MK from running.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Arab MKs
Arab MKs
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

National Union Chairman Bezalel Smotrich responded to the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling against Otzma Yehudit Sunday evening, barring one of its candidates, Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, from running for the 21st Knesset.

“When there are no expectations, there are no disappointments,” Smotrich said. “The conclusion of this absurd political theater was expected and predictable. The High Court of Justice doesn't miss any opportunity to prove how disconnected it is from the public and how unworthy it is.”

“On a day like this, when we’re burying our dead yet again, the Supreme Court justices say that supporters of terrorism who negate the existence of the state of Israel will serve in the Israeli Knesset, but Michael Ben Ari, whose sons serve in combat units in the IDF will not,” continued Smotrich.

“No legal trick can explain this absurd distortion of law. The Israeli public will answer the High Court of Justice in the voting booths by more and more votes for the URP (Union of Right-Wing Parties) which will clarify that the High Court will not decide for us. The people will decide and return the High Court to its place,” Smotrich concluded.

Ben-Ari, 55, had been the Otzma Yehudit faction’s first candidate on a joint ticket with the Jewish Home and National Union parties, receiving the fifth slot on the joint slate.

A former Knesset Member who served in the National Union part from 2009 to 2013, Ben-Ari was a student of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the Kach party and served as the party’s sole Knesset Member, from 1984 to 1988.

While previous candidates have been barred from running for the Knesset – including Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned in 1988 – this marks the first time in the history of Israel that the court has banned a candidate over the objections of the Central Elections Committee.

The petition to bar Ben-Ari had been submitted by Meretz chief MK Tamar Zandberg, Labor MK Stav Shaffir, and representatives of the Reform Movement. Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, Otzma Yehudit’s second candidate for the Knesset, was also included in the petition, but will be permitted to run.

Ben-Ari's critics had accused him of incitement to racism, pointing to a number of videos shared on Facebook in which Ben-Ari called for a tough line against terrorism. The former MK denied that he was hostile towards Arabs as Arabs, and had only spoken out against Arabs who oppose the State of Israel.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had recommended to the Central Elections Committee to ban Ben-Ari, while permitting Ben-Gvir, the United Arab List-Balad, and Ofer Cassif.

With Ben-Ari barred from the election, the candidates below him on the joint Jewish Home – National Union – Otzma list will be bumped up one spot, pushing Itamar Ben-Gvir into the seventh slot.

The decision strips Otzma Yehudit of its “safe seat”, with polls showing the party winning between six to eight seats.