Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a Likud faction meeting, July 2 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been trying to pass a Jewish nation-state law for years.
In his landmark speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, one of the two conditions for his acceptance of the two-state solution in the address – along with the Palestinian state being demilitarized – was that “the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”
That message about the need for the Palestinians and the world to recognize Israel as a Jewish state was what Netanyahu tried to impart to former US president Barack Obama from the moment he took over as president.
Netanyahu did not succeed in persuading him and Likud sources close to the prime minister said Obama’s White House actively worked to prevent the passage of a Jewish nation-state bill.
The same sources said Donald Trump’s presence in the White House was one of the reasons Netanyahu felt a need to pass the bill immediately. That was, of course, only one of the reasons.
It is becoming increasingly likely that the Knesset will be dispersed and elections initiated soon after the parliament’s extended summer and holiday recess ends on October 14. Netanyahu, who is criticized by his rivals for being “all talk, no action” needed a legislative accomplishment.
The positive, patriotic messages in the Jewish Nation-State Law will help shore up the prime minister’s base on the Right. The European Union and left-wing groups in Israel and around the world will help the prime minister even more by condemning both him and the new law.
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But the truth is, Netanyahu has been doing very well in the polls lately and did not need the new law. And beyond politics, what will be the bill’s practical impact?The Supreme Court
will likely be asked to overturn the law, but because it is a Basic Law, that would be very difficult. When the court is asked to rule on the basis of the law, it is unlikely to change very much.
A controversial clause that could have permitted one religious group to bar another from living in their community was replaced with a relatively benign one saying that, “The state sees developing Jewish settlement as a national interest and will take steps to encourage, advance, and implement this interest.”
The outrage of the world about Arabic not being listed by the law as an official language was unnecessary because the law’s next sentence states that Arabic’s status would not be harmed.
The Arabic on Israel’s street signs will remain. The actual impact on Israel’s Arab population, which is upset at the new law, will apparently be negligible.
The clause that speaks about the state acting “in the Diaspora” to maintain the “connection between the state and the Jewish people” that formerly said “wherever Jews are around the world” to include Israel, will not mean that Israel will not work on that connection in Israel or make more of an effort around the world.
So, the Jewish nation-state that Netanyahu asked the Palestinians and the world to recognize at Bar-Ilan and that passed in the Knesset is no more likely to change facts on the ground any time soon than the other endorsement he made in that speech: The creation of a state for the Palestinians.
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