Activists calling to amend the Nation-State Law sent letters to all 120 MKs, the prime minister and the president on Wednesday, calling on them to support a change to the legislation that would include equality for all citizens.
The Task Force to Change the Nation-State Law, led by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amal Assad, sent the MKs a bill drafted by a forum of legal experts headed by former deputy Supreme Court president Elyakim Rubinstein, which seeks to “ensure minimal protection of private, not national, civil equality” but “without harming or reducing the national Jewish value of the state.”
Basic Law: Nation-State of the Jewish People identifies Israel as such, and includes elements like the national anthem and the flag, as well as the Jewish calendar – anchoring them in a Basic Law, which has constitutional heft. It does not contradict existing Basic Laws regarding civil rights, such as Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.
The letter states that the task force’s activists “fully believe that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People. At the same time, we believe that this Basic Law, establishing the Jewish character of the state, must also express its democratic character and, therefore, it must be amended.
“Civil equality for all citizens is the life’s breath of democracy,” the letter reads. “It is anchored in the Declaration of Independence, in laws and in the Jewish ethos…It would be right to give over 20% of the public that is not Jewish a feeling of partnership [via the Nation-State Law].”
The suggested draft amends the existing law in that it states that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and that it is “a home that has equal rights for all of its citizens.” It also adds Arabic as a second official language, as opposed to the “special status” it has under the existing law.
New Likud MK Shlomo Karhi responded to the letter: “I believe in the Nation-State Law in its current version and its great importance.
“I will oppose any change to the Basic Law itself,” Karhi said. “That is how I responded to the e-mail I received from Amal Assad... At the same time, I will promote and support another Basic Law that anchors the rights of minorities, including the Druze, as individuals.”
The task force led demonstrations outside the homes of several party leaders during the months preceding the recent election. Parties expected to be members of the yet-to-be-formed governing coalition did not agree to amend the law, while Blue and White sent mixed messages. The party’s co-chairmen Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid made public statements seemingly in support of changing the law, but its campaign manager said Gantz meant that Druze concerns would be met in a different way. MK Zvi Hauser of Blue and White is a major proponent of the law and has spoken strongly against changing it.
At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that, “Lapid and Gantz are against the Nation-State Law. You know I am in favor of it. I am proud that we legislated this historic law, which anchors Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
“It is not just the flag or the anthem,” Netanyahu added. “Israel is the country that all Jews can come to; it is the nation-state of the Jewish people and only of the Jewish people.
“This is the law they oppose,” he said, referring to Blue and White.