Israel: New government to end ban on MPs who incite racism

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  December 24, 2022

Likud and Ben Gvir’s Jewish Power agree to scrap ban that previously blocked ultra-nationalists from running for parliament.

Leaders of Israel’s incoming government have agreed to scrap a ban on individuals who incite racism from serving in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

The Jewish Power party, led by far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, said on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud to introduce legislation that would revoke a section in Israel’s Basic Law on the Knesset.

The clause stipulates that a party can be disqualified from running for parliament if it denies Israel’s character as a Jewish or democratic state or if it incites racism.

Introduced in the 1980s, the clause was successful in blocking the return of the outlawed Kach party to the Knesset, which was led by ultra-nationalist Meir Kahane who advocated for the mass expulsion of Palestinians. 

In 2019, judges disqualified Jewish Power activists Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein from running on similar grounds. 

Marzel, a US-born settler leader in Hebron/Al-Khalil, is well-known for his calls in favour of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Gopstein, the founder of the far-right anti-Palestinian Lehava group, has previously called for the dismantling of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem.

Marzel, a founding member of Jewish Power, said in November that he would be launching a new far-right party, after criticizing Ben-Gvir as too “ideologically flexible”.

Netanyahu had announced late on Wednesday that he formed a new government, minutes before a midnight deadline set by President Isaac Herzog.

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister will return to power after his Likud party, far-right religious Zionist factions and ultra-Orthodox parties secured 64 of the parliament’s 120 seats in what will be Israel’s most right-wing administration in history.

Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism political alliance, will take up prominent positions in the new government.

Smotrich, a self-declared homophobe and settler activist, will be named finance minister and will also be placed within Israel’s Defence ministry, with oversight of settlements inside the illegally occupied West Bank.

Ben-Gvir, who was previously convicted in Israel of incitement to racism and supporting a terrorist organization, will be named national security minister, with oversight of police and the force that controls security at Al-Aqsa Mosque.