Likud MK Ophir Katz filed a request with the Knesset’s Central Elections Committee on Tuesday, January 21, to disqualify Balad MK Heba Yazbak (Joint List) from running in the March 2 general elections, just a day before the deadline for submitting such requests.
Senior Blue & White lawmaker and former neo-liberal Ministry of Treasure, Yair Lapid, subsequently announced that his party would join the Likud and others in backing the petition to bar the Palestinian-Arab woman parliamentarian and citizen of Israel from running for the next Knesset.
Before the last April’s election for the 21st Knesset, a court dismissed a decision by the politicized Central Elections Committee, backed by Blue & White, to disqualify candidates from the Joint List, including leading Communist Party of Israel (CPI) member and Hadash MK Ofer Cassif. “The Knesset should not contain the most extremist elements,” Blue & White said at the time.
Amidst the furor over MK Heba Yazbak’s disqualification, the first serious rift has formed within the new Zionist left-wing electoral alliance of Labor-Gesher-Meretz, over support for barring the Balad candidate. While Meretz will instruct its representatives in the Central Elections Committee to oppose the move, Labor Party Chairman, MK Amir Peretz supports it and his party is considering instructing its representatives to vote for the disqualification
The Joint List categorically rejects the motion to bar Yazbak from running. “The attempt to disqualify MK Heba Yazbak’s candidacy is part of the de-legitimization campaign of the Arab public and its elected officials, who enjoy growing political power,” Hadash and the CPI said in a common statement. “All parties comprising the Joint Arab List emphasize the right to oppose the occupation by any legitimate means and denounce any attempt to harm civilians on either side. At a time when the prime minister is mobilizing radical forces to incite for war, racism, and discrimination, there are those who are trying to undermine forces calling for peace, equality, and coexistence.”
MK Cassif said this week that Blue & White’s support for Yazbak’s disqualification and annexation of the occupied Palestinian Jordan Valley is “a serious and negative development designed to outflank the Likud from the right.”