(photo credit: screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the "Jewish state bill," which seeks to cement the Jewish nature of Israel in law on Wednesday.
Speaking during a Knesset plenum discussion in which he was forced to yell to be heard above the shouts of MKs who oppose the bill, Netanyahu said that there were those "challenging and seeking to undermine the rights of the Jewish people in Israel from abroad and from within."
Netanyahu said that the bill was needed in order to fix a historical imbalance by which civil rights had gained supremacy over the rights of Jews to their own nation-state in Israel.
"The state of Israel is a Jewish and a democratic state. These two values are intertwined, and one does not outweigh the other. We promise equal rights for everyone, regardless of religion, race or sex. At the same time, Israel is the nation-state of the Jews only. This combination between the the rights of the nation and the rights of the individual, serves as the central thread in all of Israel's founding documents. The Balfour Declaration spoke of the founding of a Jewish national home for the Jewish people while preserving the civil and religious rights of all the country's citizens," Netanyahu said.
He said that he could understand how Hamas would oppose the bill, because they don't recognize the right of the Jews to their own state. He, said, however, that he was baffled as to why "his friends" within Israel were against the bill.
Netanyahu said that he was "against a bi-national state." He prefers a two-state solution, with one of the states being a Jewish state, he explained.
"He who talks about two states for two people but is against defining Israel as a Jewish state is contradicting himself," Netanyahu said.
He slammed the opposition for being obsessed with giving up territory to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu touted the economic and defense achievements of his government, but said that the opposition attacked him constantly, believing in the slogan, "If you didn't evacuate territory - you didn't do anything."
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) spoke after Netanyahu, calling on him to resign.
"Only a prime minister lacking self-confidence needs a Jewish state bill. You talk more and more and more about nationality in order to avoid addressing the inability of the public to afford buying a house."
Herzog said that Netanyahu had failed in his efforts to prevent Iran's nuclear progress and had proven wanting in his promises to weaken Hamas.