Central Elections Committee (Israel)
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The Israeli Central Elections Committee (Hebrew: ועדת הבחירות המרכזית, Va'adet HaBehirot HaMerkazit) is the body charged under the Knesset Elections Law of 1969 to carry out the elections for the upcoming Knesset. The committee is composed of Knesset members (and delegates) representing various parliamentary groups and is chaired by a Supreme Court Justice (currently Salim Joubran). Tasks for the committee include the authorization of party lists running for the Knesset, election financing, and publication and appeals of election results.
In 1985, the Knesset approved a law which, for the first time, allowed the committee to disqualify a party list on the grounds of its ideological platform. The law allowed the committee to bar parties from elections that negate the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, made incitements to racism, or supported the armed struggle of an enemy state or terrorist organization against the state of Israel. The first provision, dealing with the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, has been the most controversial since it is possible that parties favoring a one-state solution could be banned under it.
1988 Party Bans
The committee decided to ban the Progressive List for Peace (PLP) and the Kach Party in 1988. The former was banned for allegedly negating the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; the later party was banned because of incitements to racism. The Supreme Court of Israel sustained the ban against Kach, but overturned the ban on the PLP reasoning that it was impossible to determine that "the real, central and active purpose [of the list] is to bring about the elimination of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people".
2003 Party Ban Controversy
In 2003, Likud MK Michael Eitan initiated a move to ban the Ta'al Party from participating in that year's Knesset elections. MK Michael Kleiner, the leader of the right-wing Herut Party, initiated a similar move against the Balad Party, arguing that Balad was "a cover-up for illegal activity" and that it "supports terror organizations, identifies with the enemy and acts against Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."
The Central Election Committee proceeded to vote by a one-vote majority to disqualify Balad and Ta'al lists from the elections. Supreme Court Justice Michael Cheshin, who chaired the committee, voted against the ban, stating that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the claims against the parties and individuals within those parties, but also said that Balad's leader Azmi Bishara's past expressions of support of the militant pro-Iranian Hezbollah in Lebanon had angered him.
The bans were appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, where the Court unanimously overturned the bans on the Ta'al list and party leader Ahmad Tibi. The Court also overturned the ban on Balad and party leader Azmi Bishara by a 7-4 majority.
2009 Party Bans
On 12 January 2009 the Committee voted to ban two Arab political parties, Balad and the United Arab List—Ta'al, from participating in the February elections. The vote passed 26-3 with one abstention to ban Balad from the elections and 21-3 with eight abstentions to disqualify UAL—Ta'al.
The measure was proposed by the National Union and Yisrael Beiteinu parties, who accused Balad and UAL—Ta'al of supporting terrorism and failing to recognise Israel as a democratic Jewish state. Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, stated that "The next step is to declare Balad illegal because it's a terror organisation that seeks to hurt Israel."
The leaders of the Arab parties denied the charges and appealed the decision to the Supreme court. Tibi described the vote as "a political trial led by a group of fascists and racists who are willing to see the Knesset without Arabs and want to see the country without Arabs." Jamal Zahalka, chairman of Balad, warned that the decision would lead to a deeper crisis between Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens.
On 21 January 2009, the Supreme Court overturned the ban.
- The Central Elections Committee Knesset website
- Entry barriers to the Knesset race Haaretz, 13 May 2002
- Right-wing MKs launch bid to disqualify Arab parties Haaretz, 14 November 2002
- Election Committee disqualifies MK Bishara and Balad list Haaretz, 1 January 2003
- Poll ban on Arab Israelis lifted BBC News, 9 January 2003
- "Israel disqualifies Arab parties". BBC. 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
- Paz, Shelly (2009-01-12). "Elections C'tee bans UAL, Balad lists". Jerusalem post. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
- "Israel poll ban for Arab parties". Al Jazeera. 2009-01-13. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
- "Supreme Court revokes ban on Arab parties from national elections". Haaretz. 2009-01-21. Retrieved 2009-02-16.