Netanyahu throws strong support behind Jewish nation-state bill

"Our enemies need to know that the Jewish People have the right to this land," says PM. Opposition leader dubs bill "anti-democratic."

May 8, 2017 16:17
2 minute read.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 3, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his backing to the controversial Jewish nation-state bill Monday.

“The bill establishes the fact that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people in our historic homeland,” he said at a Likud faction meeting. “It anchors in the Israeli law our flag, our anthem and that Jerusalem is our eternal capital.”

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Opponents of the bill drafted by MK Avi Dichter (Likud) argue that the bill gives primacy to Jewish citizens, but Netanyahu said “there is no contradiction at all between this bill and equal rights for all citizens of Israel.”

While the bill declares that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and it says Hebrew is the state language and Arabic has a special status, it also says that all citizens have a right to maintain their own culture, heritage and language.

According to Netanyahu, the bill is “the clearest answer to all those who are trying to deny the deep connection between the people of Israel and its land.

The prime minister said the bill will be promoted during the Knesset’s summer session, which began Monday and will continue until August.

“The Likud will pass this important law, and I expect all Zionist parties to support it,” he stated.

Netanyahu made similar comments in a later address to the Knesset in honor of Herzl Day, also tying the visionary of the Jewish state to declaring Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he thinks the Jewish nation-state bill is “excellent” and said Yisrael Beytenu would support it.

However, other party leaders had different ideas.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog came out against the bill at a Zionist Union faction meeting, saying it “violates the holy and delicate balance between Jewish and democratic” in Israel, and is one of many antidemocratic bills the coalition is promoting.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said he supports Likud MK Bennie Begin’s version of the bill, which simply states that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people in their homeland, and nothing else.

“If the Likud would submit this [version of the] bill, which was born in its home, we would support it,” he said. “A Jewish nationstate bill is the right idea. While Israel is entering its 70th year, the declaration that Israel is Jewish and democratic is an important declaration.

Our enemies need to know that the Jewish people have the right to this land.”

However, Lapid posited that Dichter’s version of the bill is “another round of hatred and fear; another attempt to divide and split up this nation; an open insult to Arab citizens of Israel; the creation of another crisis between Jews on the question of religion and state; further harm to the judiciary and state institutions.”

During no-confidence motions, the Joint List’s Yousef Jabareen said the Jewish nation-state bill would mean “16% of Israel’s citizens don’t have a state at all; the state is only for the Jews, and we are living here by their graces.”

By declaring Israel a Jewish state, Jabareen said, the bill would make Israel “an apartheid, racist state.”

“I hope the members of this House will wake up and vote for equality for all citizens, Jewish or Arab,” he added.

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