Coalition parties submitted two separate bills seeking to define Israel’s Jewish
nature Tuesday, after talks between Yesh Atid, Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi
On Tuesday morning, MK Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid) submitted
“Basic Law: Independence Scroll,” while coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud
Beytenu), Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked and Yisrael Beytenu
faction chairman Robert Ilatov submitted “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State
of the Jewish People” hours later.
Calderon, Levin and Shaked worked
together for the last month in hopes of drafting an agreed-upon version of
“Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.” Shaked and
Calderon began talks several weeks earlier, and Levin joined in after proposing
a similar bill.
The bills are meant to anchor in legislation the
definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
are several versions of the bill, beginning with one proposed by former Kadima
MK Avi Dichter in the last Knesset. Each defines Israel differently.
Likud Beytenu-Bayit Yehudi legislation seeks to balance the values of Judaism
and democracy as expressed in the Independence Scroll, while the Yesh Atid bill
turns the scroll itself into a Basic Law.
“We tried to reach broad
agreements and made a major effort to reach an agreed-upon draft,” Levin said.
“Unfortunately, we could not reach an unequivocal agreement on the matter, but
the current [Likud Beytenu-Bayit Yehudi] draft certainly reflects a very wide
Israeli consensus, and is important to the character of the State of Israel,
which is influenced by this dialogue.”
Levin, Shaked and Ilatov’s bill
also mentions the Jewish People’s historic right to the Land of Israel, stating
that the State of Israel cannot exist anywhere but the Land of
Another article in the Likud Beytenu-Bayit Yehudi bill says all
citizens have equal civil rights, regardless of religion or
The bill also includes an article giving it equal legal
standing to Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom.
“Elements in and out of
the Knesset are trying to harm the Jewish character of the state in recent
years, and want to turn it into a ‘state of all its citizens,’” Shaked stated.
“The State of Israel was founded as the Jewish State, and it must remain that
way. We must stop the continuing erosion of the Jewish foundations of the
Calderon’s version of the bill recognizes the Independence Scroll
as the founding document of the State of Israel and a basis for legal dispute
and matters of identity.
“As long as we don’t have a constitution,”
Calderon wrote in the bill’s explanatory section, “the Independence Scroll is a
basic, recognized legal document with important principles of the country’s
The Yesh Atid MK added that the courts have used the document
and its principles for decades.
The bill is meant to declare Israel as a
Jewish State, but Calderon emphasized that she means Judaism as a nation and
culture, not a religion.
At the same time, the legislation says Israel
commits to protect human rights of all its citizens and residents, regardless of
ethnicity, religion or gender.
“The desire to have a state with Jewish
character while maintaining equal rights is clearly expressed in the
Independence Scroll,” Calderon explained. “The scroll is a balanced, Jewish and
democratic document based on principles of justice and equality that are no less
relevant today than at the time it was written.”
Both bills removed a
controversial article from Dichter’s version, declaring Hebrew alone – and not
Arabic – the official language of Israel.
None of the involved parties
would disclose what led talks to break down this week.
month, Calderon wrote angry Facebook posts denying claims by Ha’aretz that she
supports the Basic Law requiring the courts to put Israel’s Jewish identity
before its democratic values.
“The law that I am promoting, for a Jewish
and democratic state, is meant to fix the dangers of Dichter’s bill and doesn’t
even hint at making democracy subordinate to Jewish identity,” she
Days earlier, Levin told The Jerusalem Post: “This is a Jewish
state that’s a democracy, not a democracy with some Jewish elements. We need to
strengthen these principles, and give them legal priority.”
explained that legal precedent gives equality under law priority over “Judaizing
the land,” as he called it, but his bill would ensure that the Jewish nature of
the Land of Israel comes first.
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