Israel’s attorney general seeks to disqualify far-right candidate over ‘severe and extreme’ racism


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s attorney general urged the Supreme Court to disqualify the leader of a far-right party from running in elections next month because of his “severe and extreme” racism.

Avichai Mandelblit, addressing the court during a hearing Thursday, said Michael Ben Ari’s racist ideas, which he desires to turn into reality, “constitute the candidate’s central and overriding goal … [and is] a defining expression of his identity as a candidate.”

The hearing was held in response to a petition from several groups asking the high court to rule on the candidacy of Ben Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir of the Jewish Power party, or Otzma Yehudit. Mandelblit said Ben Gvir approaches but does not cross the line in his racism.

In one example cited by The Times of Israel from last year, Ben Ari spoke of those who speak out against Jews.

“A firing squad takes him out as the Arabs understand [best],” the report quoted him as saying.

Ben Ari says the remarks cited by the petition have been taken out of context.

His lawyer told the court that Ben Ari has “no problem” with Arab Israelis who are loyal to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, The Times of Israel reported. But when asked by Justice Yitzhak Amit if  99 percent of Arab Israelis are considered “enemies” if they do not feel that way, the attorney replied “That’s the logic.”

Ben Ari is in the fifth slot on the joint slate of the Union of Right-Wing parties, giving him a realistic chance to join the Knesset. He served in the parliament from 2009 to 2012 as part of the National Union Party.

The court has not indicated when it will make its decision.

Earlier this month, the Central Elections Committee rejected appeals against Jewish Power running in the election in a 16-15 vote.

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