'Racist' candidate should be barred from Israel polls: attorney general


Jerusalem (AFP)

A candidate for an extreme-right party that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to boost ahead of April elections should be disqualified over "racist" remarks, the attorney general has said.

Israel's elections committee will begin discussing petitions to bar candidates on Wednesday.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said late Tuesday that recent remarks by Michael Ben-Ari of the Jewish Power party amount to "incitement to racism" against Israeli Arabs, who constitute around 17.5 percent of the population.

Ben-Ari has described Israeli Arabs as "treacherous and murderous", Mandelblit said in a statement.

A decision to disqualify him would be appealed to the country's supreme court, which would have the final word.

"Ben-Ari is inciting on an ethnic-nationalistic basis against the Arab population" and "calling for a violent renunciation of the Arab population's rights," Mandelblit said.

Mandelblit's position was submitted to the central elections committee in response to a petition to have Jewish Power candidates disqualified from taking part in the April 9 vote.

The committee will discuss requests to disqualify candidates from Wednesday to Sunday.

Ben-Ari and others are also calling for the disqualification of lists from Arab parties over their alleged lack of loyalty to Israel and support of "terror" against it.

Jewish Power are followers of late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement was labelled a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

Hoping to secure as many right-wing seats as possible in the next parliament, Netanyahu brokered a deal that saw Jewish Power join with two far-right parties to create a single electoral list.

Ben-Ari, who was a member of parliament from 2009-2013, was given fifth place on the list.

Netanyahu has faced harsh criticism over the deal, with many accusing him of easing the path for "racists" to make it into parliament.

There is also a bid to disqualify the second Jewish Power candidate, Itamar Ben-Gvir over "racist" comments but Mandelblit said his statements were not sufficient to bar him.

Jewish Power lashed out at Mandelblit's recommendation against Ben-Ari, accusing him of "hypocrisy" for not recommending to disqualify the Arab lists and claiming he was attempting to "run Israel".

Jewish Power expressed hope the committee would not accept Mandelblit's position, saying the attorney general had been misled "with partial recordings and distortions of interviews".