The Central Elections Committee was expected to engage in a lengthy and heated debate on Wednesday over petitions to disqualify Knesset candidates and lists from the upcoming Jan. 22 election.
Petitions to bar the predominantly Arab National Democratic Assembly and Ra'am-Ta'al parties and the ultra-nationalist Strong Israel party were among those set to be considered, as was a petition against Arab Israeli MK Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Assembly).
Members of the governing coalition believe that the Central Elections Committee will vote by a large majority to disqualify the National Democratic Assembly and Zoabi. Central Elections Committee Vice Chairman MK Ofir Akunis (Likud), who submitted the petition against Zoabi, estimated that at least 20 of the committee's 34 members would vote to bar Zoabi from running in the election. This estimate was based on the assumption that the committee's representatives from Likud, Kadima, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas and the New National Religious Party would support the petition against Zoabi.
Any decision by the Central Elections Committee to ban a party or candidate could be overturned by the nine-member High Court of Justice panel. Before the previous election in 2009, the Central Elections Committee voted to disqualify the National Democratic Assembly and Ra'am-Ta'al, but that decision was overturned by the High Court of Justice.
The current petitions against the two Arab Israeli parties and Zoabi are based on the claim that they support armed struggle against the State of Israel and do not agree that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish and democratic nation.
The Strong Israel party has been accused of incitement to racism.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Monday said that the petitions to disqualify Knesset candidates and lists should be rejected. Weinstein's opinion was expressed to Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, chairman of the Central Election Committee.
On Zoabi, Weinstein said that although the accumulation of evidence against her was significant and very disturbing, approaching the border of the forbidden, the petitions themselves did not present a "critical mass" of evidence.
The Central Elections Committee was also set to consider petitions seeking to ban the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties for alleged discrimination against women.
In response, the two ultra-Orthodox parties said that "for men there is one role and for women there is another. In the division of roles, there is no exclusion of women, discrimination against women or claims that women are less than men. We operate according to Jewish law, in which there is a clear separation between men and women, for reasons of modesty."
The two parties added that they do not oppose women from other parties being elected to the Knesset.
All of the parties and individuals facing possible disqualification have sent detailed letters to the Central Elections Committee explaining why the petitions against them should be rejected.