JERUSALEM (Oct. 18)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud bloc appears to be the chief beneficiary of a decision by Israel’s highest court Tuesday to disqualify Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party from running in the Nov. 1 Knesset clections.
A five-judge panel of the High Court of Justice decided unanimously Tuesday to reject Kahane’s appeal of a ban imposed on his party Oct. 6 by the Central Election Committee.
At the same time, the court ruled by a 3-2 majority that the predominantly Arab Progressive List for Peace, which supports a Palestinian state, may participate in the elections.
The effects of these decisions on the out come of the elections is a matter of speculation. But political pundits have already suggested that Likud, rather than the Labor Party, will benefit.
In the Kach case, a panel headed by the court’s president, Justice Meir Shamgar, affirmed a finding by the Central Election Committee that the Kach party is racist and opposed to the democratic nature of the state. Such parties are disqualified from running in elections, under an amendment to the Basic Law.
The amendment was not in force when Kahane was elected to the Knesset in 1984. He now holds the Kach movement’s only seat in the 120-member legislative body, but his party was expected to win additional seats in the Nov. 1 elections.
Charges of racism against the Kach party are based on its platform, which among other things calls for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel and the administered territories. The party would also deny Israeli Arabs the right to vote and would favor criminal penalties against Jews who marry or have sexual relations with Arabs.
The legal process against Kach was initiated in the Central Election Committee by Labor, Likud and the smaller parties represented on the committee. The committee is chaired by Eliczer Goldberg, himself a High Court justice.
The effort to ban the Progressive List was undertaken by Likud, the ultranationalist Tehiya party and other right-wing factions.
They cited the party’s support of Palestinian nationalism and its alleged links to the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The amendment to the Basic Law disqualifies parties that reject the notion of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
SPLIT ON PROGRESSIVE LIST
The narrow margin by which the Progressive List was approved to run in the elections indicated serious reservations among the justices.
The majority opinion seemed to say, however, that as long as the leftist party complies with the law, to ban it because its program is abhorred by many would be undemocratic.
At first glance, both court decisions seemed to have been a blow to the political right.
But political analysts who watch the opinion polls believe that with the climination of Kach, its supporters will drift back to Likud from whence many of them originally came.
The latest polls indicate that Kach would have won about 100,000 votes in the upcoming elections. They translate to three or four Knesset seats, which could spell victory for Likud in a close race.
On the other hand, the Progressive List’s inclusion on the ballot is likely to deprive Labor of Arab votes.
KAHANE TO CONTINUE CRUSADE
Israel’s 750,000 Arab citizens are more politically aware than ever. Although many are Palestinian nationalists, there is strong sentiment among them to work within the Israeli system to further their cause.
According to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, chairman of the Labor Party and its choice for prime minister, Israeli Arabs have the potential of holding as many as 16 Knesset seats.
Only this week, Peres urged Israeli Arabs not to fritter away their votes on the Communist Party or on the Progressive List, which have no standing in the political establishment.
His appeal was calculated to attract Arab votes to the major parties, knowing they would choose Labor over the hard-line Likud bloc.
Meanwhile, Kahane vowed Tuesday that he would continue his largely anti-Arab crusade by mass rallies and other non-parliamentary means. He predicted the day would come when the Israeli people would turn to him.
His supporters sang and danced outside the High Court building. Some wept, however, and ripped their clothes in a ritual sign of mourning.
But the Israeli public in general seemed delighted that the parliament will be rid of a faction that has at times been an international embarassment to Israel.
Leaders of Labor, Likud and most of the smaller parties immediately welcome the decision, though the right-wing Tsomet and Moledet parties expressed reservations.
In New York Tuesday, Burton Levinson, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and Abraham Foxman, its national director, called the ruling “a blow against racism and a triumph for democracy and decency in Israel.”
They added that while Kahane still has a right to voice his opinions, “the decision puts beyond the political process an organization whose aims and actions the court described as racist and reminiscent of the worst acts against the Jewish people.”