Chaos in election committee meeting
Chaos in election committee meeting Hezki Baruch

A meeting of the Israeli Central Elections Committee descended into chaos Wednesday, as the committee prepares for a vote on petitions to bar a right-wing faction and an Arab nationalist party from running in next month’s Knesset election.

The committee, which is made up of lawmakers from each of the parties in the Knesset, kicked off its Wednesday session at 10:30 in the morning with hearings on petitions by Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg and Labor MK Stav Shaffir to bar the Otzma Yehudit faction from running in this year’s election.

The two lawmakers argued that former MK Michael Ben-Ari and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir should be barred from running over comments Shaffir and Zandberg argued constituted racism.

Ben-Ari is running on the fifth slot of the joint Union of Right-Wing Parties list, while Ben-Gvir received the eight spot on the ticket.

In addition, the committee is slated to vote Wednesday on a petition by right-wing lawmakers to bar the Arab nationalist party Balad from running for the 21st Knesset, over its rejection of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and support for terrorism.

The hearing was disrupted as Ben-Ari clashed with left-wing MKs, including Issawi Frej, an Arab lawmaker from the far-left Meretz faction, and Stav Shaffir of Labor.

Frej shouted at Ben-Gvir just outside of the hearing, calling the Otzma candidate a “violent racist”.

“They’re bringing in supporters of transfer into the Knesset on a red carpet,” continued Frej. “If it hadn’t been for racism, there wouldn’t have been a Holocaust.”

In response, Ben-Gvir compared Frej to the pro-Hamas Turkish militants who attempted to break the Israeli security blockade on Gaza in 2010 onboard the MV Mavi Marmara.

MK Issawi Frej at election committee hearing Wednesday
MK Issawi Frej at election committee hearing Wednesday Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90

“Go back to the Marmara,” Ben-Gvir told Frej during the encounter.

Inside the hearing, Ben-Gvir confronted MK Stav Shaffir, one of the lawmakers who had recommended Ben-Gvir and Ben-Ari be barred from running, and attempted to serve notice that he is suing Shaffir for calling Otzma’s candidates “Nazis”.

Shaffir refused to accept the copy of the lawsuit.

Ben-Gvir filed the lawsuit with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court recently, demanding half a million shekels ($138,251) in compensation after she described the Otzma Yehudit party as “Nazis”.

Despite Avichai Mandelblit’s support Tuesday for the petition to ban Ben-Ari’s candidacy, both Otzma Yehudit candidates are expected to be approved for this year’s Knesset election – albeit by narrow margins.

The New Right announced Wednesday morning that it would vote against barring the Otzma candidates. Yisrael Beytenu is also reportedly planning to vote against barring the candidates, while the Kulanu faction is expected to abstain itself from the vote.

מהומה בועדת הבחירות