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Far-right party candidates to be allowed to run in Israeli elections

Election committee dismisses concerns from Attorney General that Jewish Power candidates incited racism
Former Israeli parliament (Knesset) member and far-right leader Michael Ben Ari (R) delivers a speech (AFP)

Two members of the far-right Jewish Power party will be allowed to run in Israel's upcoming April elections, despite a recommendation by the attorney general that the party should be disqualified for inciting racism.

Debate in the Knesset reached a fever pitch on Wednesday as lawmakers demanded that representatives of the Jewish Power party, acolytes of the late far-right rabbi Meir Kahane, be ruled ineligible to run in Israel’s upcoming national elections.

However, the Central Election Committee eventually ruled, by a vote of 16 to 15, that the party's chairman Michael Ben-Ari would not be banned.

A second Jewish Power candidate, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was also approved by the same tally.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said the approval was "embarrassing" and said her party would take the issue to the High Court. 

"Moshe Kahlon should take down the photo of Menachem Begin from his billboards in light of his decision to skirt the vote and grant the Kahanists an entry ticket to the Knesset," she said referring to one of the MKs that makes up the committee.

MK Issawi Frej, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, slammed the move to allow the party into the Knesset.

“There is a candidate here for Jewish Power, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who on television showed off a photograph of the Jewish murderer Baruch Goldstein,” railed Frej. Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian men and boys in Hebron in 1994, once ran for the Knesset with Kahane’s Kach party.

“This man who is coming to expel me will become a member of the Israeli parliament?”

Candidates for the party fired back, insisting their political positions were legitimate.

“Not every bill that [Kahane] tabled we sign off on,” retorted Ben-Gvir in front of members of the elections committee.

“We do think that Rabbi Kahane was right.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had supported the disqualification of Ben Ari in a submission to the committee - however, despite this, he said that Ben-Gvir should be allowed to run.

Meir Kahane's original party, Kach, was originally barred from running in elections in 1988, before being banned outright in 1994 following the Hebron massacre.

Hoping to secure as many right-wing seats as possible in the next parliament, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu brokered a deal that saw Jewish Power join with two far-right parties to create a single electoral list.

Ben Ari, who was a member of parliament from 2009 to 2013, was given fifth place on the list. Ben-Gvir was given the eighth slot.

Netanyahu has faced harsh criticism over the deal, with many accusing him of easing the path for "racists" to make it into parliament.