The Central Election Committee voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to bar Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party from running in the general elections Nov. 1.
Kach promptly appealed the decision to the High Court of Justice, Israel’s supreme court. It must render a verdict before next Wednesday, the deadline for closing the election lists.
The Central Election Committee acted on a 1984 amendment to the Basic Law that bars parties engaged in incitement to racism.
The move, not unexpected, has suddenly put the High Court of Justice in the unusual position of appearing to be crucial to the outcome of the election. Its decision on Kach may well determine which party will form the next government, many political pundits believe.
The weight of opinion here is that the elimination of Kach would send its voters swarming back to Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud bloc, from where most originally came.
According to current polls, Kach stands to win nearly 100,000 votes, which translate into three or four Knesset seats. It presently has one seat.
In a close election, where every seat is crucial, the diversion of those 100,000 votes to Likud could turn it into the largest single political party.
The president of Israel is bound by custom and long usage to give the largest faction the first mandate to try to form a government.
NO GAIN FOR SMALLER PARTIES
This scenario is based on the premise that if Kach is not on the ballot, its supporters would not spread their votes among the other small, ultraright-wing parties.
These are Tehiya; Moledet, established recently by reserve Gen. Rehavam Zeevi; and Tsomet, established by Gen. Rafael Eitan, a former Israel Defense Force chief of staff, when he broke with Tehiya.
All three parties are closer to Kach’s ideological stance than is Likud. Kach’s platform calls for the eviction of all Arabs from Israel and the administered territories, by force if necessary.
Moledet endorses the transfer of Arabs out of the country. Tsomet calls for the harsh suppression of the Palestinian uprising. And Tehiya demands the mass deportation of Palestinian activists from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But there is also a sociological factor, political analysts say. Tehiya and the generals’ factions are viewed in the urban slums and new development towns — the bastions of Kahane’s strength — as somehow Ashkenazic, establishment parties.
Likud, even after 11 years in office, is still seen by the underprivileged as the party of protest, anti-establishment and an authentic expression of popular, gut-level sentiment.
But Kach consistently has taken votes away from Likud in the poor suburbs and development towns where Likud had painstakingly established ascendancy over Labor in the 1970s.
It may not be entirely coincidental, therefore, that Likud, more than any other party, pushed for passage of the Basic Law amendment of 1984, under which Kach may be denied a place on the ballot.
At the Election Committee session Wednesday, Kach lawyer Rahamim Cohen argued that the party’s position on the Arabs does not stem from racism, but rather the conviction that the Arab community is hostile and dangerous to the Jewish state.
Judge Eliezer Goldberg, the panel chairman, and some 30 politicians of all parties who comprise the committee categorically rejected that reasoning.
Only the National Religious Party and the Poale Agudat Yisrael supported Kach. Tehiya abstained.
Kach also was charged, under the 1984 amendment, with rejection of the democratic nature of the state. It was indicted on that count by a smaller majority. Goldberg sided with the minority and backed Kach on that issue.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.