Photo Credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
Otzma Yehudit party leaders Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 13, 2019.

Ahead of the 2019 elections, former MK Michael Ben Ari was ranked 5th in the list of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, comprised of Naftali Bennett’s HaBayit Hayehudi, Bezalel Smotrich’s National Union, and Ben Ari’s and Itamar Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit (they won 5 seats).

Michael Ben Ari, 59, was a member of the banned Kach party, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane’s party, and still sees himself as a Kahane disciple. In 2009, after two failed previous attempts, he was elected to the Knesset and began to use the biggest megaphone in the country to voice his unhesitant views which The Jewish Press has covered lavishly (MKs Eldad, Ben-Ari Launch ‘Power to Israel’ Party, MK Ariel Warns of Damage to the Right).

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The Reform movement and several left-wing parties filed petitions with the Central Election Committee to disqualify Ben Ari based on section 7a of Basic Law: The Knesset that bans individuals from running to the Knesset if they 1. Deny the right to existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; 2. Incite to racism; and 3. support an armed struggle by an enemy state or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel. The petitioners argued that Ben Ari had spewed racism on numerous occasions.

Then-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit wrote in his opinion that Ben Ari should be disqualified, but after a stormy debate, the committee rejected the petitions by a majority of 16 to 15. The petitioners appealed to the High Court of Justice which decided to disqualify Ben Ari’s candidacy, on the grounds that “Dr. Ben Ari’s actions and statements contain incitement to racism as a dominant and central goal of his doctrine.”

With that, Ben Ari became the only candidate in Israel’s history to be disqualified by the Supreme Court after the Central Election Committee had approved his candidacy, and the only candidate who was disqualified individually––as opposed to disqualifying his entire list of candidates––and not as a result of a conviction for a crime.

Ben Ari’s response was to demand to be prosecuted for his alleged crimes against the Israeli democracy or to be allowed to run. It’s inconceivable, he argued, that the highest court decides that he may not run because he violated the law and then not allow him to prove his innocence in court. He continued to hammer the judicial authorities for three long years until on Wednesday the prosecution made its move against him.

Who knows why they decided the time was ripe to go after Ben Ari? Perhaps they wanted to act while the government was still in the hands of those who fought to oust him from politics, fearing that a Likud Justice Minister such as Amir Ohana, a proven sworn enemy of the establishment’s biased prosecution, would side with Ben Ari. There was also a petition to the Supreme Court that Ben Ari says he was preparing, “indict me or let me run.” Again, no one knows for sure why, but on Wednesday, Michael Ben Ari was served with a notice that the prosecution is weighing his indictment, subject to a hearing, for “systematic, repeated publications of racist incitement against Arabs wherever they are.”

Ben Ari twitted his response late Wednesday night: “Finally, after two years of me demanding that they file an indictment against me, the prosecutor’s office decided to file one. A moment before the appeal to the Supreme Court I prepared against them. In court, I, too, can ask questions and bring up interesting witnesses. And prove that even the Supreme Court President lied to get me disqualified. And no, I don’t intend to go to the hearing. There will be an expensive trial here, with the best lawyers.”

According to the letter that invites Ben Ari to a hearing regarding his possible indictment––which he refuses to attend––over a long period of about three and a half years, starting at the end of 2017, Ben Ari published racist incitement against Arabs on more than 20 different occasions.”

If the prosecution goes ahead and indicts Ben Ari, his trial could become a stage for a formidable attack of the right against the crony judicial system in Israel that for more than thirty years has formed a permanent, unelected government, pushing its own agenda, curbing political debates, unseating a serving Knesset Speaker – in short, a judiciary gone mad with power. Subverting the decision of a state committee regarding Ben Ari’s qualification turned out to be a small pebble on a path to an ever-increasing Supreme Court tyranny. But this pebble could turn out to bring this deeply corrupt system’s demise, and for one, huge elephant in the room reason: in the past, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the strongest defender of the judiciary, seeing as he had become the central pillar of Israel’s establishment. But then the system turned against him, and Netanyahu is having a taste of what so many on the right have endured, as he is facing four so-called criminal corruption cases that threaten his political future. This time around, the courts and the prosecutors are on their own, without Bibi to back them up.

Is it any wonder Ben Ari is aching for a fight?

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.