The oath of allegiance proposal that passed in Sunday’s cabinet meeting will be just the first of many such bills to be advanced during the Knesset’s winter session, which begins on Monday, Israel Beiteinu and Shas officials vow.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said on Sunday night he would act to legislate a bill that would allow his ministry to remove citizenship from people who joined Hamas, Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations.RELATED:Quick Vote: Have your say on the Citizenship LawTibi: Israel is democratic for Jews, Jewish for ArabsLieberman: Zoabi is the reason we need a loyalty oath
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu) said he will advance a bill requiring 16-year-olds to sign a declaration of loyalty to Israel and Zionism when they apply for an identity card.
“Israel Beiteinu will continue working to advance the values it believes in and to ensure that there will not be citizenship without loyalty,” the party said in a statement following Sunday’s vote.
At the other end of the political map, Labor ministers Isaac Herzog and
Avishay Braverman promised to do everything possible to prevent the
loyalty oath and other such proposals from becoming law. But they both
stopped short of threatening to resign from the cabinet.
“I am sure that with a public struggle, we could change this decision,
and I hope we will stand strong against it,” Herzog said following the
The controversial amendment to Article 5c of the Citizenship Law was
approved in the cabinet on Sunday by a vote of 22-8, with the five Labor
ministers – including Defense Minister Ehud Barak – and three Likud
ministers voting against.
The three Likud no-votes came from ministers Dan Meridor, Bennie Begin and Michael Eitan.
According to the amendment, those seeking to become naturalized citizens
will take an oath that their allegiance is to the State of Israel, “as a
Jewish and democratic state,” and that they “promise to honor the laws
of the state.”
It was agreed that Barak’s proposal to add the words “in the spirit of
the principles of the Declaration of Independence” would be submitted
for discussion by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which is
chaired by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and where the amendment is now
It was also decided that Neeman’s proposal to have all new immigrants,
including those coming in under the Law of Return, take the oath would
be discussed by the cabinet at a future date.
If the amendment passes the Knesset in its current form, it will only
apply to those seeking naturalization – such as foreign workers and
Palestinians marrying Israeli Arabs – who are not eligible for
citizenship under the Law of Return.
The cabinet meeting, which at times got heated, featured an angry
exchange between Barak and Neeman, in which Barak said that those who
had not internalized the principles of the Declaration of Independence
had no place around the cabinet table. He was referring to Neeman’s
opposition to adding the words “in the spirit of the principles of the
Declaration of Independence” to the oath.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed the importance of the decision.
“The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish people and is a
democratic state in which all its citizens – Jewish and non-Jewish –
enjoy fully equal rights,” he said. “The combination of these two lofty
values expresses the foundation of our national life, and anyone who
would like to join us needs to recognize this.”
Netanyahu said that Israel had not been established like any other
state, but as “the national state of the Jewish People, as the sovereign
state of the Jewish People in its historic homeland.”
“With this amendment, we expect all those who seek to become citizens in
the only democracy in the Middle East will recognize that Israel is the
Jewish national state and a democratic state,” he said. “There is broad
agreement in Israel on the Jewish identity and the democracy of the
State of Israel; this is the foundation of our existence here.”
Meridor, during the meeting, said the amendment was superfluous and
wouldn’t stop the unscrupulous from lying under oath to gain
citizenship. He said the amendment would only add to hard feelings, and
that he was not sure of its purpose.
After the cabinet meeting, Herzog and Braverman blamed the bill’s
passage on their party chairman, Barak, whom they accused of reaching a
deal with Netanyahu and Lieberman enabling the legislation to be brought
to the cabinet. They said Barak had zigzagged by speaking out in favor
of the bill and then voting against it.
“David Ben-Gurion would be turning over in his grave if he saw this
stain on Israel,” Braverman said. “Barak has acted like a satellite,
disconnected from the party and not consulted its ministers or MKs. He
hasn’t acted as a Labor man for quite some time. I hope he returns to
the party and its ideals.”
Barak responded to the criticism by canceling Sunday’s meeting of Labor
ministers. His associates called Braverman a “delusional leftist with a
mental disorder who is detached from reality.”
They added that “if he doesn’t like the government, we can find a replacement for him.”
Labor rebel MK Eitan Cabel, meanwhile, wrote an angry letter to Herzog and Braverman, begging them to leave the government.
“There is a limit to how many times you can hide behind the small shadow
of Ehud Barak,” Cabel said. “You have crossed the line. The spotlight
is on you now.
Prove you are leaders by leaving now.”
Opposition MKs competed in their criticism for the controversial legislation.
“I see this bill as instigating internal conflicts for political gain,”
opposition leader Tzipi Livni said. “This government talks about
strengthening Israel as a Jewish state, but ends up weakening it time
and time again.
Lieberman won a few votes today, and Netanyahu gets to keep Lieberman’s
votes [in the coalition], but the people of Israel will suffer.”
Meretz leader Haim Oron said that “there apparently is no ethical or
political nadir that this government will not sink to, and nothing that
can save Labor from this government.”
Hadash head Muhammad Barakei called the bill “a missile intended to blow
up the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.” He accused the
government of being possessed by a dybbuk of racism.
“The real prime minister is not Netanyahu, but Lieberman,” UAL-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi said.
“The government has become an arm of Israel Beiteinu and adopted its fascist ideology.”
National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari praised the legislation, comparing it
to bills submitted by his mentor, Rabbi Meir Kahane, when he was an MK
in the mid-1980s.
“Twenty years after the assassination of Kahane, the Likud and the
government of Israel are finally admitting that he was right,” Ben-Ari