Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka, Nov. 25.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is the basis of any future peace accord, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, responding to critics both domestic and abroad claiming that the controversial “Jewish state” legislation will water down the country's democratic character.
“Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said during a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka as part of the annual government-to-government meeting between Israeli and Czech cabinet ministers. “Israel is an exemplary democratic country – that is the way it was and the way it will be. A country that anchors personal equal rights for each of its citizens.”
Netanyahu said he did not know a more vibrant, democratic country than Israel in the world, “certainly not in our region.”
The Prime minister said that while the country's democratic character was ensured, what is being challenged constantly is it being the nation-state of the Jewish people. “And for that reason we will anchor in law the national rights of the Jewish people, alongside with assurances of the personal rights of each citizen,” he said. “That combination is what is important, and what I will promote in the principles of this law. We will continue to do this to make clear the fact that Israel is a Jewish democratic state.”
Hamas warned on Monday that the "Jewish state bill"
could lead to a "religious war" in the region.
The group said the bill is "a dangerous development aimed at changing historic realities on the ground."
The group added in a statement, that the bill "sets off alarm bells for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims about Zionist ambitions in the region, to employ ideological, religious Zionist myths in order to gain control over the entire Arab region, steal its resources and humiliate its people."
The Mufti of Jerusalem Mohamed Hussein also slammed the bill, saying that it "exposes Israel's racist face and could ignite a religious war."
The United States on Monday reacted to the controversial bill, highlighting the importance of Israel maintaining its democratic character.
Though the legislative process is still ongoing – a Knesset vote on the bill has been delayed until next week amid a coalition crisis – State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said the US expected Israel to preserve its "commitment to democratic principles," no matter the "shape and final outcome."
Rathke, speaking to journalists in Washington, reiterated a long-held belief of the Obama administration – that "Israel is a Jewish and democratic state in which all citizens should enjoy equal rights."
Referring to the public interest the legislation has aroused both within the Jewish state and beyond, the spokesman said he hoped any final vote would "continue" to align with US views which remain "unchanged."
Although a final say by the Knesset was postponed, Netanyahu has promised to push forward with the "Jewish state bill," with or without his coalition partners' backing.Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.