Controversial 'Jewish State' bill passes first reading in Israeli parliament
GALI TIBBON (AFP/Archives)
The "Jewish nation state" bill passed its first Israeli parliament reading on Wednesday afternoon, with 48 lawmakers voting in favor and 41 against.
The legislation, sponsored by Likud Member of Knesset (MK) Avi Dichter, says that “the State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it realizes its aspirations for self-determination according to its cultural and historic traditions” and that “the realization of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
The legislation states that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the official language of the state. It gives special status for the Arabic language, a downgrade from its current position.
The bill must pass further readings by the Israeli parliament before becoming law. If passed, however, the legislation would be enshrined as one of Israel's so-called 'Basic Laws' which are similar to constitutional laws and guide the country's legal system making them more difficult to repeal than other laws.
The bill also recognizes that “every resident of Israel, without distinction of religion or national origin, is entitled to work to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity.”
Dichter celebrated the Committee's decision as "a big step toward defining our identity, not only in the eyes of the world but primarily for ourselves, Israelis. To be a free people in our land."
This most recent version of the bill is watered down and moderated from the one proposed in October of 2015, which prioritized the state of Israel’s Jewish identity to its democratic character.
At the time, Dichter stressed what he felt to be the importance of the bill’s passage in light of the wave of terror attacks that had occurred throughout Israel.
“The Palestinians no longer hide their goal to erase the nation-state of the Jewish people,” he said. “The events of recent months proved to anyone who still needed proof that this is a battle for the country’s image and national identity.”
The bill’s version however, failed to reach consensus within the government and the initiative to pass a law officially recognizing Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people had therefore been temporarily put on hold.
On Monday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin appeared to refer to the bill during an interview with Army Radio when he said that Israel should not stray from the principles of the country's Declaration of Independence.
Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint (Arab) List party, called the Committee's decision to approve the updated text a "declaration of war" on Israel’s Arab citizens.
"Discrimination has received a legal stamp. The danger in this law in that it establishes two classes of citizen — Jewish and Arab," he wrote in a statement in response to Sunday's decision.
Zionist Union lawmaker MK Erel Margalit, a contender for the leadership for the center-left party, called the bill "reminiscent of dark periods" in Israel's history, calling the bill "an effort to erode the only democracy in the Middle East."
Figures from 2016 show that the Jewish population of Israel stands at 6.377 million, or 74.8 percent of the population, while the Arabic population numbers about 1.771 million, or 20.8 percent.
Another 374,000 people – 4.4 percent of the population – are non-Arab Christians, members of other religions, and people with no recorded religious affiliation.
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Israel must be a Jewish state - a place of refuge, and sovereignty for a people that has been reviled and persecuted for two thousand years. Even I, a proud American grateful and willing to die in its defense, recognize, even demand, that the Jews return to their homeland.
and Jews in general. (damn auto correct :-)