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AG calls for the exemption of far-right candidate Gopstein, Marzel

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday recommended that two senior members of the extremist party, Otzma Yehudit, be banned from running in the Israeli election in September, saying there was no reason to ban the race to its leader, lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir.

The Attorney General also dismissed as a frivolous request from Otzma Yehudit seeking to prevent the centrist blue-white party from bidding against a controversial video against ultra-Orthodox politicians. He similarly rejected the claims against the Common List in his legal opinion submitted to the Central Election Committee on Tuesday.

Mandelblit based his recommendation on the Basic Law: the Knesset, which stipulates that political parties or candidates cannot run for office if they engage in incitement to racism.

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Former No. 1 Otzma Yehudit Michael Ben-Ari has been banned from running for the April election in April because of a racist clause, and has been replaced by party leader Ben Gvir.

The attorney general supported the disqualification of Ben-Ari before the last race. His list is now joined by two other candidates, Baruch Marzel and Bentzi Gopstein.

Mandelblit's legal opinion is in response to a plea from the left-wing Democratic camp election committee.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit Attends Ceremony for New Justice Minister Amir Ohan at the Jerusalem Ministry of Justice on June 23, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

According to Channel 13 news, Mandelblit bases his decision on a long record of violent racist statements by Arabs by Marzel and Gopstein.

Gopstein is at the forefront of the racist Lehava organization, which opposes interfaith and interethnic interaction, relationships and marriages. Lehava held violent protests outside mixed Jewish-Muslim weddings and along the routes of gay pride parades, and urged the public to alert the organization to cases where Jewish women were found to be dating Arab men.

In a public statement quoted by the network as quoted in Mandelblit's opinion, Gopstein was quoted as saying at his daughter's wedding: "Let's say that if an Arab waiter were not here to serve food, he would seek the nearest hospital."

Marzel led the extremist rabbi of the Meir Kahana Kach party following the assassination of its founder in 1990 and has long been identified with the aim of the faction to forcibly clear the land of the Arabs. He continued to be among the main supporters until he dissolved in 1994 after being declared a terrorist group by the Israeli government.

Mandelblit alleged that Marzellellit, in a recommendation to disqualify Israeli Arab nationals, said, "When we end the enemy, tens of billions of shekels will be released, which will now go to waste. Sixty percent of the National Insurance Bureau's money goes to the enemy."

Otzma Yehudit belittled the reported decision, which leaked on Monday before Mandelblit received a party response to allegations in a Democratic camp complaint.

Michael Ben Ari, center, Itamar Ben Gvir, left, and Lehave Benzi Gopstein, all from the Otzma Yehudit party, at the Jerusalem event marking the 27th anniversary of Rabbi Meir Kahane's death, November 7, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

"Once again, it turns out that the attorney general is working on reform [Jews] and serves as an extreme left advocate in the Department of Justice. This shocking leak of the Attorney General's opinion while Otzma Yehudit still has not responded to the appeal [against its candidates], proves that his opinion has been decided in advance. "

She also accused the Attorney General of turning a blind eye to "a long series of actions and serious statements by Knesset members since [Arab] A common list, including visits and assistance to arch-terrorists imprisoned, and Mandelblit doesn't even consider them disqualified. "

Mandelblit called for his resignation "this night."

The Attorney General's recommendation is not the last word, but it has had significant weight over the fate of the party in the past.

The committee, made up of representatives of the outgoing Knesset factions and chaired by Justice of the Supreme Court, will vote on Otzma Yehudit's participation in the election in the coming weeks. Any decision of the body may then be appealed to the High Court of Justice.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently tried unsuccessfully to reach a deal under which Otzma Yehudit would run a joint ticket with other small right-wing parties in September. The far-right group has rejected the overture to merge with other parties and will run independently in the fall.

On the eve of the April elections, the prime minister was successful and the far-right party was transferred to the Right-wing Alliance, although no candidate Otzma Yehudit eventually entered the short-lived 21st Knesset.

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