Israel’s Supreme Court bars 2 far-right candidates from running for Knesset


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two top candidates of the far-right Jewish Power party cannot run in Israel’s national elections next month, the nation’s Supreme Court ruled.

Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein were disqualified from the Sept. 17 vote over past statements against Arabs that are considered incitement to racism, overriding a decision earlier this month by the Central Elections Committee allowing their candidacy.

The appeal to the Supreme Court, which ruled Sunday, was filed by the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform movement here and the Blue and White, Democratic Union and Labor parties.

Jewish Power, or Otzma Yehudit, was allowed to stay in the race minus the two candidates. Marzel was second on its list and Gopstein was fifth. Polls have shown that Jewish Power will not win enough votes to enter the Knesset by crossing the 3.25 percent electoral threshold.

Led by attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, the party is the spiritual godchild of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach, which was banned from the Knesset under a Basic Law outlawing incitement to violence and later exiled entirely in Israel.

Like its Kahanist ancestors, the party calls for a greater Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the annexation of the West Bank. It calls for unrestrained settlement building and the resettlement of Palestinians and Arab Israelis in Arab countries. It wants to restore Israeli sovereignty to the Temple Mount and cancel the Oslo Accords.

Prior to the April elections, the Supreme Court disqualified another Jewish Power candidate, Michael Ben-Ari, from running due to racist statements against Arabs. For that election, Jewish Power entered a unity pact with the right-wing Jewish Home party in a deal brokered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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