Netanyahu’s political rivals seek to bar ‘racist’ party

Range of politicians seeking to oust Israeli PM have supported petition seeking to have candidates for Jewish Power party barred from participating in election on grounds of incitement to racism.


Netanyahu has received harsh criticism both at home and abroad over the move

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attempts to boost an extreme-right party many view as racist in April elections could be blocked if his opponents succeed in a bid to disqualify its candidates.

A range of politicians seeking to oust Netanyahu have supported a petition seeking to have candidates for the party, Jewish Power, barred from participating in the election on the grounds of incitement to racism.

Netanyahu last week brokered a deal that saw Jewish Power join with two other far-right parties to form one list to boost its chances of making it into parliament after April 9 elections.

The prime minister, with an eye on his next coalition government should he win, says the move was necessary to ensure enough seats in the next parliament for right-wing parties.

But Netanyahu has received harsh criticism both at home and abroad over the move, with many accusing him of easing the path for anti-Arab "racists" to make it into parliament.

Left-wing party Meretz filed a petition to the central election committee on Tuesday to have Jewish Power candidates disqualified.

Centrist party Yesh Atid as well as the Labour party have said they support the petition.

A Meretz spokesman said on Wednesday they had collected the 12 votes needed to have the request debated by the committee.

"A terror organisation has no place in the Knesset," or parliament, Meretz said in a statement.

The central elections committee, headed by a supreme court justice, is comprised of representatives of the parties in parliament.

A spokesman for the committee said the deliberations on disqualifying lists would take place between March 6-10.

Israel's supreme court has the final word on whether candidates can be disqualified.

Jewish Power leaders are followers of late racist rabbi Meir Kahane.

Kahane founded Kach, a far-right movement that wanted to chase Arabs from Israel and which was eventually banned. Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Kach has been listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation.