Coalition talks on bill defining Israel as Jewish State break down

Bill is meant to anchor in legislation the definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

June 25, 2013 16:28
2 minute read.
Israeli flags.

Israeli flags 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

MK Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid) submitted a bill turning the Independence Scroll into a Basic Law Tuesday, after talks broke down on a coalition bill defining the Jewish nature of Israel.

Calderon, coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) 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 bill is meant to anchor in legislation the definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. There are several versions of the bill, beginning with one proposed by former Kadima MK Avi Dichter in the last Knesset. Each defines Israel differently.

Calderon submitted her version of the bill Tuesday, after negotiations with Levin and Shaked were unsuccessful. Her new 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 identity."

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."

None of the involved parties would disclose what led talks to break down this week.

However, last 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 wrote.

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.”

Levin explained that currently, 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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