Israel’s supreme court on Sunday disqualified Michael Ben-Ari, the controversial leader of the far-right Jewish Power party, from running in next month’s elections.
Ben-Ari has come under attack for comments he made about Israeli Arabs, which Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said earlier this month amount to “incitement to racism.”
The elections committee had given Ben-Ari the green light to run in the April elections, but the opposition left-wing Meretz party successfully appealed the decision to the supreme court.
“The place of people who believe in the superiority of race is behind bars not in parliament,” said Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg in a statement.
The attorney general previously accused Ben-Ari of “inciting on an ethnic-nationalistic basis against the Arab population” and “calling for a violent renunciation of the Arab population’s rights.”
According to Jewish Power, his disqualification marks the first time a candidate approved by the committee has been banned from standing in elections.
In a press conference following the ruling, Ben Ari said “a judicial junta is trying to impose its laws… it’s not democracy.”
Jewish Power are followers of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement was designated a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is seen as leading the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, brokered an agreement to see Jewish Power join with two far-right parties to create a single electoral list.
The supreme court on Sunday approved Jewish Power’s second candidate, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to stand in the election.
It also backed a candidate from the extreme-left Hadash party, Ofer Kassif, and approved the two main Arab alliances – Hadash-Taal and Raam-Balad.
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse