Israeli elections panel bars Arab party from running in upcoming polls

(190326) — SHOHAM, March 26, 2019 (Xinhua) — Workers prepare ballot boxes for the upcoming Israeli election at a central elections committee warehouse in Shoham,Israel, before they are shipped to polling stations. March 25, 2019. (Xinhua/JINI)

Jerusalem, Sep 30 (IANS) An Israeli-Arab party was disqualified from running in the country’s November elections over allegations of promoting an anti-Israel agenda.

With nine members voting in favour and five against, Israel’s Central Elections Committee said in a statement that it accepted the request to disqualify Balad on the basis that the party allegedly supports the cancellation of Israel as “a Jewish and democratic state”, Xinhua news agency reported.

Balad, acronyms in Hebrew for “National Democratic Alliance”, announced in a separate statement that it will appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision.

Sami Abu Shehadeh, the party leader, denounced the decision as “an attempt by (Defence Minister Benny) Gantz and (caretaker Prime Minister Yair) Lapid to engineer an Arab leadership according to their political needs”.

In previous elections, Balad ran with the Joint List, an alliance of three to four Arab parties. But two weeks ago, the alliance collapsed, leaving Balad with dim hopes of passing the electoral threshold needed to get it into the parliament, according to polls.

Under Israeli election rules, if a party fails to pass the electoral threshold, its votes are not counted at all. If Balad will not run, people who have considered voting for it could vote instead for one of the other three Arab parties in Israel, which are more agreeable to joining a coalition led by Lapid or Gantz. Balad has repeatedly opposed joining such a coalition.

Also on Thursday, the committee rejected a request to bar the United Arab List, an Arab-Israeli party, from running. The party, led by Mansour Abbas, is part of the ruling coalition, a diverse alliance of eight parties united only by their will to oust former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Arab citizens of Israel compose about 20 percent of the country’s population. They are Palestinians who did not leave during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 that broke out immediately after the Israeli announcement of its independence.

The Central Elections Committee attempted several times in the past to bar Arab parties and lawmakers from running for alleged “disloyalty” to Israel, but its decisions were overruled by the Supreme Court on appeal.

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