Will the Otzma Yehudit faction be permitted to make last-minute changes to its list of candidates on the Union of Right-Wing Parties joint ticket?
On Sunday, the Supreme Court made the unprecedented move of banning a Knesset candidate who had been approved by the Knesset’s own Central Elections Committee, disqualifying former MK Michael Ben-Ari from running for the 21st Knesset.
The ruling, which overturned the Central Election Committee’s narrow 16 to 15 decision earlier this month to permit Ben-Ari to run, deprives the Otzma Yehudit faction of its “safe” seat in the next Knesset.
Otzma Yehudit, which is led by students of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, is running on a joint ticket with the Jewish Home and National Union factions, and received the fifth and eighth slots on the joint slate.
The party is currently polling at an average of about seven seats, guaranteeing that Ben-Ari, who had been placed fifth on the ticket, would enter the Knesset. Ben-Gvir, who had been placed eight on the ticket, would likely not have made it into the Knesset, recent polls show, had the list remained as originally submitted on February 21st.
With Ben-Ari’s disqualification, however, every candidate on the joint slate after Ben-Ari was automatically bumped up one place, pushing Ben-Gvir into the realistic, but still not guaranteed, seventh spot on the list.
The third Otzma candidate, Yitzhak Vaserlof, was given a largely symbolic slot on the Knesset list, placed 40th on the joint list.
Ben-Ari’s removal from the list has placed the alliance between the Jewish Home, National Union, and Otzma in jeopardy, as Otzma now will not be guaranteed representation in the Knesset – a fact that could drive away its voter base.
Now, however, the Central Elections Committee is weighing the possibility of altering the order of candidates on the Union of Right-Wing Parties’ list, so as to allow Ben-Gvir to take Ben-Ari’s spot in the fifth slot, while Vaserlof takes Ben-Gvir’s spot as the eighth candidate on the joint list.
Ordinarily, parties are prohibited from making changes to their Knesset slates after the deadline for submitting lists – which passed on February 21st.
Given the unusual circumstances, however, the chairman of the Central Elections Committeee, Justice Hanan Meltzer, has asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit whether the committee can approve the last-minute reshuffling of candidates.