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Netanyahu drops item from 'Jewish State' bill downgrading Arabic language status

Session de la Knesset, le 24 juin 2015 à Jérusalem
GALI TIBBON (AFP/Archives)
The bill, which passed its first reading in early May, has been seen as a threat to Arab Israelis

The section of the “Jewish nation-state” bill that would declare Hebrew as the official language of the state, downgrading Arabic, will be removed from the legislation, reported Israeli media on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin compromised on the bill, agreeing to remove the clause that would give Arabic “special status,” but a step down from being one of Israel’s official languages.

Another clause in the legislation states that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel, a contentious issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the Palestinians also lay claim to the ancient city.

The bill, which passed its first reading in early May, has been controversial as some see the text as 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," wrote Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint (Arab) List party.

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.

The proposed 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.”

Dichter celebrated the first passing, calling the committee’s decision "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.”

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."

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given the current situation I think Arabs should be thankful to have any status in Israel!

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