Necessary, but not necessarily positive
It should be understood that even those
of us who strongly support this amendment see it not as a positive development,
but a necessary one. In recent months we have been exposed to Knesset members
who have acted in a matter that is nothing less than against the interests of
The wording of the new oath is symbolic but it is designed to
weed out potential citizens, primarily from within the Arab community.
Unfortunately, too many from within this community have acted against the very
nation which they should be sworn to defend – if not physically, then at least
morally.RELATED:Quick Vote: Have your say on the Citizenship LawTibi: Israel is democratic for Jews, Jewish for ArabsCabinet passes loyalty addendum to Citizenship Law
Israel provides all of its citizens more freedoms and individual
rights than any other nation in the Middle East. It is therefore not
unreasonable to ask in return that new citizens pledge their allegiance to the
principles upon which this nation was founded and continues to define itself
Even while we pride ourselves on being a land of diverse
ethnicities and religions, any well-intentioned citizen should have no
reservations about expressing support and identification with the State of
Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state,” and in so doing express solidarity
with the very ideals which define us as a people and a nation.
Danon is the deputy speaker of the Knesset and chairman of World
The three “No”s
Here is some breaking news: Israel has been a
Jewish and democratic country for some 60 years now. No legislation, no oath and
no pledge of allegiance needed.
Its Jewishness is represented in its
flag, its national anthem, its Hebrew calendar and in the Jewish majority that
lives here. It is Jewish in its democracy and in its politics.
seemingly, it makes sense to amend the Citizenship Law. But it’s also completely
There are three “No”s to the amendment passed Sunday in the
First, it’s not the right time: Recently, a delegitimization
movement is developing in the West, the part of the world to which Israel claims
to belong. The timing of this amendment will only add fuel to the fire of this
growing campaign against Israel.
Second, it’s not appropriate: The
government has been making efforts to diminish the gap between Arab citizens of
Israel – many of whom, unfortunately describe themselves as Palestinians and
therefore as outsiders – and the Jewish majority. This amendment will drive them
into the open arms of Palestinian identity and might even exclude them from the
Israeli collective altogether.
The third “no” is the most important: it’s
not the main issue. Who are these people who are supposed to take the oath? Who
are these prospective citizens which this law targets? Is it worth the public
outrage? But there are also three “Yes”s which the government stubbornly
ignores. “Yes” to Jewish identity education, “yes” to teaching democratic values
in school, and “yes” to the inclusion of non-Orthodox Jews in Israeli
This is how Netanyahu can sharpen Israel’s national
character as a Jewish and democratic state. The prime minister chose to ignore
these issues and preferred the “No”s. He is satisfied with an unnecessary
amendment which does more harm than good.
– Dr. Nachman Shai is a Kadima MK
and a former IDF spokesman.A bad bargain?
The passing of the amendment
to the Citizenship Law to reflect the ‘Jewish and democratic State of Israel’ is
a symbolic statement. It does not have, to my chagrin, any practical political
It will not help revoke the citizenships of enemies of this
state – who do not hesitate to say they want the Jewish and democratic State of
Israel to be something else entirely. It will also not stop the yearning of many
Arab residents of Judea and Samaria to become Israeli citizens through marriage.
This country that they hate so much, remains the object of their heart’s desire
and they are willing to become citizens of a Jewish state, in order to turn it
into a binational state.
The new amendment is significant in that it
strengthens the national character of the Jews who are already citizens and
those who wish to join this nation. We musn’t make light of this law but we
should consider its advantages along with its disadvantages. Netanyahu gave his
support to the bill as a reward to Israel Beiteinu in exchange for something.
This “something” is still not obvious.
If the only thing it sought to
accomplish was the embellishment of Avigdor Lieberman in the eyes of Israel
Beiteinu’s constituents, so that he doesn’t come across as someone who only
spews out empty slogans – so be it.
But if, with his support, Netanyahu
has bought Lieberman's silence in exchange for the extension of the construction
freeze in the settlements, or his support to cede lands in the framework of the
negotiations, the amendment will have cost us our sovereignty. Then we’ll know
that we’ve negotiated a bad deal.
– Arye Eldad is a National Union
MK.Another gem from the house of Lieberman
The most recent initiative
from the house of Lieberman is yet another example of what is by now an
established modus operandi – how to appear to be doing something without solving
Should Lieberman and the government have proposed a
comprehensive immigration law, which would finally make it clear for non-Jews,
whether immigrant workers or Arab spouses, who gets to be a citizen, if at all,
for what reasons and through which process – and which would also erase the
shameful practice of Israel’s granting of citizenship to Jews, only to tell them
upon their becoming citizens, that when it comes to marriages and burials they
are not sufficiently Jewish – that would have been something.
context of a comprehensive immigration law that would properly address the
question of non- Jews who seek to become citizens in the homeland of the Jewish
people it would have made perfect sense for the process to include, among other
things, the knowledge of Hebrew and the history of Israel and the Jewish people,
and a declaration to preserve the State of Israel as the democratic homeland of
the Jewish people.
Barring a comprehensive law, the current proposal is
nothing but stupid, inflammatory, and as many of Lieberman’s proposals, great
for the press, but for Israel – worse than useless.
– Einat Wilf is a
Labor MK, a fellow with the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute and a member
of the President’s Conference Steering Committee.
Jewish, but not
This amendment to add “the Jewish and democratic State of Israel” to
the declaration of loyalty is part of the Israel Beiteinu doctrine. It draws on
the Avigdor Lieberman spectacle at the UN podium last month where he called for
a population exchange. Netanyahu is playing straight into Israel Beiteinu’s
hands even as he boasts that it was his idea to begin with and that he too wants
to have prospective citizens swear allegiance to a “Jewish and democratic State
It’s doubtful that the government has actually given some
thought as to how this is supposed to be implemented.
How will a
potential Arab citizen fulfill the obligation of keeping Israel “Jewish”? What
will said Arab citizen do if the millions of immigrants from the FSU decide that
they want to go back? Should he stand at the entrance to the airport, trying to
prevent them from leaving? Or perhaps he should commit suicide in order to keep
the demographic balance? Or convert to Judaism and join a Zionist movement? This
country, with ministers such as Lieberman, Neeman and Yishai, and with full
participation from Labor head Ehud Barak, is sticking it to the Arabs. They are
trying to send a message that they are the landlords and the Arab are mere
tenants, guests in a country that is part of our heritage. They create an
atmosphere of increasing suffocation and take oppressive nationalist steps that
cannot be considered even remotely democratic.
And even as Israel markets
itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, it treats the Arab-Palestinian
as a fifth column representing an existential threat to the state.
is the level of perceived threat each group represents, in ascending order: 1.
Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel 2. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem
3. Palestinians west of the barrier 4. Palestinians east of the barrier 5.
Palestinians of the Gaza Strip Until Israel starts treating Palestinians, many
who live in its borders, as people who also have rights to this land and not
just partial rights in the land, we will all keep treading water and keep
uttering that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state – democratic for the Jews
and Jewish to the Arabs.
– Dr. Ahmad Tibi is a Palestinian citizen of Israel
and is deputy speaker of the Knesset I would not take the oath
really understand what “Jewish and democratic” means? Cultural Zionists from
Ben-Gurion to Yehuda Amichai did. They assumed a democracy with a Jewish
character would advance the Hebrew language, whose modern revival was the real
The Declaration of Independence assumed just such a
Hebrew republic when it mandated that all citizens – from any “race” and
“religion,” and irrespective of individual “conscience” – might contribute to a
common life that was Jewish in the national sense, but did not presume to
straighten the crooked timber.
Today, then, our everyday words contain
the nuances of Jewish history and literatures (the state is not named Edom,
after all) but leave space to welcome anyone willing to be acculturated, even
Arab writers like Salam Masalcha, say. This approach to nationality is common
throughout the democratic world, from the European Union to Quebec. No other
conception of Jewish can be democratic because it makes a nonsense of
Is this the “Jewish” Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman expects
loyalty to? No. He wants a state in which Halacha, and its rabbinic courts, have
civil responsibilities. He wants citizenship and other material privileges to be
based on J-positive blood or conversion by Orthodox law.
He wants a state
whose founding is justified and capital established, not by standards of
international law, but congregational presumptions about divine will. He wants a
state that purports to represent Jews everywhere, as if the majority of liberal
American Jews do not blush for him.
Now, Neeman says all immigrants – not
just Arabs – should take an oath to his totalitarian idea. I would not have when
I first came – and would not now.
– Bernard Avishai is adjunct professor
of business at Hebrew University and the author of the recently published The
Hebrew Republic.It’s not racism, it’s stupidity
In recent days, Israel
has been pounded by a storm of controversy, a great sound and fury signifying
nothing. The word “racism” has been heard in the Israeli media on average once
every 10 minutes. We have defeated ourselves.
It’s possible to criticize
an amendment that makes loyalty a condition of becoming a citizen. Racism is not
part of the equation.
The law is not against Israeli Arabs, and also, at
this point, not against Palestinians seeking permanent resident status in
Israel. The amendment is meant to affect mainly those seeking citizenship, for
instance from the Ukraine or Russia, countries from which most of the requests
for citizenship come from (hundreds per year, most of which are approved). One
can accuse Avigdor Lieberman of being many things, but anti-Russian or
anti-Ukrainian isn’t one of them.
Our media doesn’t bother with the
facts. There was no public debate. There was only a campaign against the
“racist” amendment. There is no reason to go searching for delegitimization in
the countries of the world. The Israeli media has done enough of that by
At the core of the issue, the amendment is at once both correct
and idiotic. It is correct considering it adopts the norms already in place in
many democratic countries because it applies only to those seeking citizenship,
not those who are already citizens. Also, Israel has the right to use any and
all democratic means to distance itself from the hostile elements within, who
oppose the very idea of the Jewish democratic state.
But it’s also a
stupid and excessive amendment because there is no connection between the just
nature of it and the results. Indeed, whoever wants to become an Israeli, be
they Russian or Palestinian, will have to agree to declare that he believes in
the coming of the messiah and the reincarnation of souls, as Judaism
The true focus of this debate should not be on the loyalty oath
but on the Citizenship Law itself. The law is meant to prevent a massive return
of Palestinians using marriage as a means. Instead of addressing the real
issues, the Israeli government let itself be dragged into an unnecessary
This country has no clear immigration laws and it will pay dearly
– Ben-Dror Yemini is a columnist at Ma’ariv, where a full
version of this excerpt appears.