Netanyahu, Rivlin meet Druze leaders to quell concerns over nation state bill
Kobi Gideon (GPO)
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with local Druze council heads in an effort to appease the minority community after it voiced concern of the newly passed nation state bill that enshrines Israel as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu, along with Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, told the Druze leaders “You are describing genuine feelings and we must find a solution. I will continue (holding) consultations. We will establish a team led by staff head Yoav Horowitz and we will submit forthwith recommendations for actions that will strengthen the important ties between us."
Communication Minister Kara later praised Netanyahu in a tweet, saying “I welcome the prime minister’s decision, together with the Druze council heads, to establish a special team to discuss and solve the sect’s acute problems — in workforce, education, enforcement on illegal construction of houses, (rights of) discharged soldiers, and more.”
“The team should bring forward its conclusions within a few days and promise quick and efficient implementation,” Kara added.
Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu addressed members of his ruling Likud party and told them not to be "apologetic" in the face of criticism toward the recently enacted nation-state law.
"The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, with full equality of rights for all its citizens, the meaning of the worlds 'Jewish and democratic state.We have never established the national rights of the Jewish people in this land, until we passed the national law."
Two clauses of the nation-state law, which will have near constitutional power, have drawn particular concern both in Israel and internationally: one which demotes Arabic from an official language of the state to one with "special status"; and another which encourages the promotion of “Jewish settlements."
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin met with the leaders of the Druze community after they had spoken to Netanyahu on Sunday, reassuring them of their importance to the Jewish State.
“Our partnership exists at the foundation and basis of this country. I have no doubt that legally you are equal and we must make sure you also feel equal,” Rivlin told them.
Rafik Halabi, mayor of the Druze town of Daliyat al-Karmel, responded to Rivlin's speech, saying “We view it as a discriminatory law that doesn’t pay heed to our citizenship or relevance, and we told him (Netanyahu) in a clear, unequivocal way that we want full civil equality for all residents.”
“We cannot live in a state when there are feelings of exclusion among parts of the population that is loyal and good. “What will you tell them (Druze and Arabs)? That they aren’t citizens? Not equal? Basic Laws should be relevant to everyone, not just the dominant part,” Halabi added.
Following the approval of Israel’s nation state bill, Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Israeli Druze community, stated that “all members of the Druze community - the sheikhs, the soldiers, and the officers - ask why this happened to us, to such a small community that went with the Jewish people and the State of Israel 70 years ago unconditionally,” in an interview with Ynet news agency.
“We are proud of the State of Israel,” Tarif added, “and we are dying for it.”
“Today, the percentage of recruits to the IDF among the Druze community stands at 84 percent, which is more than the overall percentage in Israel. The percentage of (Druze) conscripts in combat is over 60 [percent], while among Jews it is 40 (percent).” the Sheikh said.
“It is possible to make a separate law for the Druze community. It is possible to insert clauses into the existing law with a clause of equality for the Druze community,” he said.
Netanyahu and Rivlin’s meeting on Sunday between the Druze community is the latest in a series of moves by Israeli leaders to create a positive atmosphere after the controversial bill caused a massive debate in Israel.
You need to be logged in in order to post comments. Sign up or log in