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Top Netanyahu challenger Gantz says will fix Jewish nation-state law if elected

FILE: Former Chief of General Staff of the IDF Benny Gantz and Chief of the Shin Bet Yoram Cohen at the Memorial Ceremony marking 35 years since Yonatan Netanyahu's death in Operation Entebbe. At Herzl Mount, Jerusalem in 2011.
Gantz's remarks signified the first of his political campaign, leading many lawmakers to label him as 'left'

In a rare public statement, Former IDF Chief-of-Staff Benny Gantz, who is considered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top challenger for the premiership, said he will "do everything in his power to correct" Israel’s controversial Jewish nation-state law if elected.

Some of Israel’s right-wing lawmakers were quick to condemn Gantz’ remarks, saying the candidate chose to show he leans to the left in one of his first public statements regarding his political positions.

Gantz, speaking to members of Israel’s minority Druze community, said that the nation-state law must be fixed to take into account the sensitivities and needs of Israel’s non-Jewish communities.

“You're fighting for your home, keep going," Gantz told a group of Druze protesting outside his home in Rosh Ha’ayin in the north of the country. "I'm very happy you came to me this morning in this unpleasant weather. I thank you for coming, it's my honor you're here this morning." Referring to fallen Israeli Druze soldiers, Gantz said, "we must remember the loss of many friends."


Hayamin Hehadash, the new right-wing party headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, responded to Gantz in a tweet: “Gantz’s first political statement makes it clear -- he has teamed up with the left.”

“The nation-state law is a historic achievement that brings back the state’s national, Jewish, and Zionist character… Gantz’s plan to alter it clarifies where he stands,” the party added.

Tamar Zandberg, head of the left-wing Meretz party, countered Gantz’ statement regarding the law saying that it should not be “amended” but “abolished entirely.”

Netanyahu's Likud party slammed Gantz's statement, saying Monday "When Gantz attacks the national law and Tzipi Livni congratulates him for it, everyone knows the obvious-- Gantz is left, just like Lapid.”

Gantz' Resilience party responded to the criticism, calling the reactions by Likud and others as "hysterical," claiming that Netanyahu's government “shot our Druze brothers in the back – we will heal [the wound].”

The “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” was added to the country’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws after its final version was passed by the Knesset (parliament) in mid July.i24NEWS

The highly-contested bill, which passed by a 62-55 margin in Knesset, speaks of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jews and says they have a "unique" right to self-determination within its borders.

Israel, which lacks a traditional constitution, holds its basic laws as preeminent, as they are meant to guide the judiciary and require a supramajority in parliament in order to be overturned.

The law's backers say it strengthens the state's status as a homeland for the Jewish people and note it was backed by a slim majority of the country's lawmakers. Polls published earlier this week found that just over half of voters support the legislation.

Israel’s Druze, however, feel the law has legally marginalized their civic identity. While Saturday's protests highlighted the impact of the law on Israel's Druze community, the demonstrations were meant to represent the struggles of all Israelis outraged by the new law.

Arab citizens, who make up some 17.5 percent of Israel's more than eight million population, have strongly criticized the law, particularly those from Israel's 150,000-strong Druze community, who, unlike other Arabs who may volunteer, are subject to compulsory service in the military or police alongside Jewish Israelis.

But Israel's Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has defended the law as having "no practical significance" and its vague wording means it as little to no effect.


The law, which has near-constitutional power as part of the series of Basic Laws that inform and direct Israel’s legislative and judicial branches, defines Israel as the national homeland for the Jewish people and states that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to Jewish people."

Two clauses of the law have drawn particular concern: 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.”

Druze, Arab and Bedouin leaders as well as rights groups, academics and left-leaning lawmakers have sent multiple petitions to the High Court of Justice, with several more said to be in the pipeline.

In order to quell backlash against the law, Netanyahu's office has proposed three additional laws that would establish the special status of the Arab minority communities in Israel, in particular the Druze and Circassian populations.

AFP/Jack Guez

The first law would provide for the promotion and strengthening of the Druze and Circassian communities in Israel, enshrining their special status and historic contribution to the state.

The second law is meant to establish benefits for “all minority community members – of all faiths and communities – who serve in the security forces, to achieve social equality,” the GPO statement said.

The third law would establish a basic law -- part of a series of laws that inform and direct Israel’s legislative and judicial branches -- recognizing everyone who contributes to Israel’s armed service, regardless of religious affiliation.



All who pledge a leavue to the establishment of Israel, and do serve and comply with its la Ws, specially the civic ones!

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