An expanded panel of nine Supreme Court judges, led by President Asher Grunis, unanimously decided on Sunday to reject the Central Elections Committee's decision to disqualify MK Hanin Zoabi (National Democratic Assembly), allowing her to run in the upcoming Knesset elections.
The judges did not have time to provide arguments for the verdict as they were required by law to announce their decision no later than 23 days before elections. The arguments of the nine judges — Asher Grunis, Miriam Naor, Edna Arbel, Salim Joubran, Esther Hayut, Hanan Melcer, Yoram Danziger, Neal Hendel and Uzi Vogelman — will be published at a later date.
The Supreme Court has been asked to approve or reject the Central Elections Committee's disqualification of a person or party only several times before. In 2003, for instance, the Supreme Court overturned the Election Committee's decision to disqualify MKs Azmi Bishara (National Democratic Assembly) and Ahmad Tibi (Hadash-Ta'al) from running for the Knesset. Sunday's decision was no exception to the precedent of the past.
"The Supreme Court's decision shows that the attempts to disqualify me were a political and personal witch hunt against me, against my party and the entire Arab sector. During this entire saga, I have been convinced I was right and it was clear that there is no legal foundation for my disqualification. This decision does not however, erase the threats, the delegitimization and the physical and verbal violence that I have endured within the Knesset and without over the past three years.
"All the disqualifications against Arab MKs and parties over the last 15 years have shown that despite there being no legal foundation for disqualification, there is an attempt to delegitimize representatives of the Arab public," said attorney Hassan Jabareen, director of Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel), who represented Zoabi.
The Supreme Court's decision also attracted strong negative reactions. The Likud-Beytenu faction plans to propose an amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset that would disqualify any citizen who expressed support for terror from running for the Knesset.
"In light of the interpretation that the Supreme Court gave the law, it is clear that the present law has to change," the party said in a statement.
"I respect the decision of the Supreme Court, but am saddened by it," said MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) who initiated the proceedings against Zoabi. "I will continue to use the parliamentary tools at my disposal to fortify Israeli democracy."
Knesset Elections Committee Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) also attacked the decision. "This is yet another scandal from the post-Zionist school of the Supreme Court."
"The Supreme Court's decision is a message to Arab MKs that they can use their position to hurt Israel and get away with it," said MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud).