Netanyahu: Left criticism of Nation-State Law 'absurd'

“In contrast to the outrageous comments from the left attacking the Jewish state, I was touched by the sentiments of our brothers and sisters in the Druze community,” Netanyahu said.

By
July 29, 2018 12:58
4 minute read.

Knesset passes controversial Jewish nation-state bill into law, July 19, 2018 (Reuters)

Knesset passes controversial Jewish nation-state bill into law, July 19, 2018 (Reuters)

The Left’s attacks and criticism of the Nation-State Law passed earlier this month are “absurd” and reflects the “depths” to which the Left has fallen, while concerns about the law articulated by the Druze community are genuine and will be addressed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu launched into an unapologetic defense of the controversial law – which states that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and that “actualization of the right of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The significance of the words “Jewish and democratic state,” Netanyahu said, is that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people with “full equal rights for all of its citizens.”

Netanyahu said that the full civil rights of all the country’s citizens have been enshrined in a series of Knesset laws, including Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. But what has not been enshrined into law until now is the national rights of the Jewish people in its land, he said.

“What is the meaning of national rights?,” Netanyahu asked. “They define the flag, the national anthem, the language and, of course, the fact that one of the basic goals of the state is the ingathering of exiles of our people and their absorption here in the land of Israel. This is the meaning of the Zionist vision.”

The prime minister explained that determining the country’s flag, national anthem and language in no way diminishes the individual rights of every Israeli citizen.

“There are suggestions that we should change the flag and the anthem in the name of ‘equality,’” Netanyahu said, adding that there is opposition to the “nation-state” idea in many countries, “but first of all in the State of Israel – [it is] something that undermines the foundation of our existence. For this reason, the attacks from Leftist circles that define themselves as Zionists are absurd and reveal the depths to which the Left has fallen.”

For decades, Netanyahu continued, “the opposition has preached to us that we must withdraw to the 1967 lines to ensure that Israel remains the national home of the Jewish people where there will be a Jewish majority in the country. So now suddenly, when we legislate a law that does just that, the Left cries out in protest. What hypocrisy.”

Netanyahu said the Left had to do some “soul-searching,” and that it “needs to ask itself why the basic term of Zionism, ‘a Jewish national state of the Jewish people in its land’ has become an obscene term for it, an obscene word, an embarrassing principle. We are not ashamed of Zionism. We are proud of our state, of it being the national home for the Jewish people, which strictly upholds – in a manner that is without peer – the individual rights of all its citizens.”

His tone changed dramatically when discussing the anger and criticism the law has triggered in the Druze community.

“In contrast to the outrageous comments from the Left attacking the Jewish state, I was touched by the sentiments of our brothers and sisters in the Druze community,” he said.

“I want to say to them: There is nothing in this law that violates your rights as equal citizens of the State of Israel, and there is nothing that prejudices the special status of the Druze community in Israel. The people of Israel, and myself among them, love and appreciate you. We greatly value our partnership and our alliance,” he said.

Netanyahu noted that he met with leaders of the Druze community in recent days, and would do so again on Sunday “to find solutions” to the sentiments they articulated and to “give expression to our special partnership. I assure you that this partnership will only grow stronger.”

Soon after the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu and two of his party’s ministers – Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, who is Druze, and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin – met with a delegation of Druze local council heads. After repeating that the “law does not detract at all from the individual rights of anybody,” Netanyahu told the delegation that a solution must be found to appease the “genuine feelings” they had expressed.

Netanyahu announced the establishment of a team to be headed by his chief of staff Yoav Horowitz to submit recommendations for “actions that will strengthen the important ties between us.” Kara posted a Twitter post after the meeting saying that the committee will deal with the critical problems facing the community: “employment, education, enforcement of building regulations, demobilized soldiers and the like.”

Akram Hasson, a Druze MK from Kulanu – which is a member of the coalition – refused to attend that meeting, saying that since there was no intention to change the law in any way, he did not want to waste either Netanyahu’s or his own time.

“I have no problem with the flag or the symbols. I simply want to live in a democratic state,” he said in an Army Radio interview.

Prior to Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu urged his Likud ministers to stop apologizing for the law in media appearances,” saying that the discourse on the matter so far has been “shallow” and “ignorant.”


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