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Israel: Knesset Authorizes Eligibility Restriction on Knesset Candidates Convicted of Terrorism or Security Offenses

(May 25, 2018) On April 30, 2018, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed an amendment to Basic Law: the Knesset. (Basic Law: the Knesset (Amendment No. 47), SEFER HAHUKIM (SH, BOOK OF LAWS, official gazette) 5778 No. 2715 p. 636 (Amendment Law), Knesset website (in Hebrew) (amending Basic Law: the Knesset, SH 5718 No. 244 p. 69, as amended (the Law)).)

The Amendment Law restricts the right to be elected to the Knesset for an otherwise qualified candidate (an Israeli citizen over 21 years of age) who has been convicted of a serious terrorism or security offense and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of over seven years. Accordingly, the name of such a candidate may be included in a candidates’ list proposed by a political party in the Knesset national election only after the passage of 14 years from the date the candidate has finished serving his or her imprisonment sentence. (Amendment Law § 1 (amending § 6(a) of the Law).)

A candidate who has been convicted of the offenses subject to the restriction and completed his or her prison sentence at least seven years prior to the entry into force of the Amendment Law is not subject to the candidacy restriction. (Amendment Law § 2. The Amendment Law came into effect on the date of its publication in the official gazette, May 2, 2018.)

The restriction provided under the Amendment Law adds to the existing restriction imposed by the Law on the right of a candidate to be elected. Accordingly, a candidate becomes ineligible to be elected when he or she has been deprived of the right to be elected in accordance with a court decision by virtue of any law, or when he or she

has been sentenced, in a final verdict, to actual imprisonment for a period of over three months, and on the day of the submission of the list of candidates seven years have not yet passed since he finished serving his term of imprisonment, unless the Chairman of the Central Elections Committee has determined that the crime for which he was convicted, under the circumstances of the case, does not carry moral turpitude. (Basic Law: the Knesset (5718-1958, § 6(a), unofficial translation, Knesset website.)

Explanatory notes of the Amendment Law’s Draft Bill recognize the basic right of any person to be elected to the Knesset. The notes justify imposing stricter restrictions on the eligibility of an offender to be elected to the state’s legislative branch on the grounds that the commission of serious offenses of terrorism or security constitutes a rebellion against the state itself. (Basic Law: the Knesset (Amendment No. 48) (Limiting the Right to Be Elected Due to Conviction for a Terrorism Offense or a Serious Security Offense), Draft Bill submitted by Knesset Member Anat Berko, KNESSET BILLS 5778 No. 739 (Nov. 6, 2017), p. 24.)