'They're doing all they can so we won't be in the Knesset'

Central Elections Committee discusses rightist union's request to bump Itamar Ben-Gvir to 5th place, after Michael Ben-Ari disqualified.

Hezki Baruch ,

Elections Committee discusses change in Otzma list
Elections Committee discusses change in Otzma list
Hezki Baruch

The Central Elections Committee met this morning in the Knesset to discuss the rightist union parties' request to change the list and move Itamar Ben-Gvir to fifth place instead of Michael Ben-Ari, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court.

The Committee discussion is taking place against the background of the Attorney General's unequivocal objection to a change in the list.

Attorney Ben Gvir said at the start of the Elections Committee discussion, "It seems the Attorney General's representatives are doing everything, but everything, so that Otzma Yehudit representatives won't be in the Knesset."

Justice Hanan Meltzer noted, "I don't deal with feelings but with arguments." Ben-Gvir explained: "When taking into account the will of the voter and the will of the People, our request must be accepted, which is the language of the law."

Meltzer: "You should have thought about a situation of disqualification, or that the list would receive only four Knesset seats."

Ben-Gvir: "We didn't foresee an option of disqualification. To date, there has been no precedent for disqualifying a candidate under section 7A. The argument of the Attorney General's representatives seems to be that the list is Holy of Holies or some closed gate."

Ben-Gvir emphasized that the request to change the list was submitted on behalf of all list members. "Ben-Ari didn't resign, and unfortunately, Ben-Ari isn't with us. I have a strong criticism of the decision. Nobody's allowed to stylize the list and determine who will be on its behalf in the Knesset."

Meltzer replied: "When a list or candidates resign by law, I have to interview them and see that they're resigning freely and doing so of their own volition. I don't know here if it was done freely. If they were here I'd ask them. You have to personally talk to them."

Ben Gvir: "If your Honor wants them, they will come stand here. The candidates don't forfeit their place and the interest of Peretz and Smotrich who tell your Honor that they favor the jump - there's an interest here for the entire list that Otzma Yehudit will have Knesset representation. The purpose is the will of the people.

"Ben-Ari's disqualification has hurt us badly, and according to the Supreme Court, everything must be done to minimize the harm," Ben-Gvir said. "The most obvious step is to allow us, and to accept my request. There are those in the State Prosecutor's Office who don't want to see me on the Judicial Appointments Committee."

Attorney General Mandelblit stated yesterday that "the request should be rejected, since the Central Elections Committee is not authorized to change the order of candidates on the list of candidates submitted to it. However, it may be argued that a different legal arrangement would be preferable, The existing law remains in force - there is no legal possibility to grant the request in this matter," the Attorney General said.

The rightist union asked Elections Committee Chairman Judge Hanan Meltzer to place Itamar Ben-Gvir in fifth place instead of Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, who was disqualified by the Supreme.

Were it possible to make changes to the list, the eighth place now reserved for Ben Gvir would be given to Yitzhak Vaserlof, Otzma representative now in 39th place.

Vaserlof, 26, from South Tel Aviv, is married and the father of two. He grew up in the Old City of Jerusalem, studied at the Nativ Meir high school yeshiva, was a counselor and a member of Bnei Akiva, studied at the Ma'alot Hesder yeshiva and served in Golani.

Jewish Home Party Chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz slammed the Supreme Court decision to disqualify Michael Ben-Ari. In conversation with Arutz Sheva, Peretz said that "the court has acted unfairly. Unfortunately, Ofer Kassif, who speaks with hatred of Israeli soldiers and would allow their blood to be shed and speaks of the State of Israel in a provocative manner passed, while Dr. Michael Ben Ari didn't pass.

"This is a very serious blow to voter's rights and democracy," Rabbi Peretz said. "It would have been fitting for the court to stand down and not intervene in the Election Committee decision, and if so, not in a manner of double standards."