The Israeli High Court of Justice today overturned the Knesset(Israeli Parliament)’s attempt to ban the two Arab political parties with Knesset representation from contesting next month’s elections. The decision was unanimous in favor of lifting the ban on the United Arab List-Ta’al and 8-1 in favor of lifting the ban on Balad.
Balad Chairman Jamal Zahaika declared the decision “a blow to (Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor) Lieberman and the fascist Right, as well as to Kadima, the Likud and Labor, which stood by the disqualification.” As popular as the effort to ban them was in the Knesset, the court’s decision hardly came as a surprise after Attorney General Menachem Mazuz filed a brief saying he saw no legal grounds to bar the parties from the election.
Lieberman condemned the decision, saying the court “virtually gave the Arab parties permission to kill Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” He promised to “make sure to pass the citizenship bill” when the next Knesset takes power, promising “that will put an end to the disloyalty shown by some of Israel’s Arabs.”
The citizenship bill, which Lieberman’s party has been advocating for years, would compel all Arabs to take a loyalty oath to the current government and its status as a Jewish state, or lose their citizenship and their right to vote.
A demand to pledge eternal loyalty to their status as second class citizens is unlikely to sit well with most Arabs, already frustrated by their ill treatment during the most recent war. It would also amount to a de facto ban on Balad, which has as one of its central tenets the demand for equal rights for all citizens. With Lieberman’s Party looking to gain big in next month’s elections, the citizenship bill may have more momentum in the new Knesset.