Labor Party Chair Avi Gabbay.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Zionist Union party Chairman Avi Gabbay and opposition leader Tzipi Livni announced their intention to transform Israel’s Declaration of Independence, signed at the country’s founding on May 14, 1948, into the constitution of the State of Israel.
“The Declaration of Independence will be a Basic Law stating that the State of Israel will be the nation-state of the Jewish People with equal rights for all its citizens, and will retain its character as a Jewish and democratic state,” said a joint statement to the press released by Gabbay and Livni Saturday.
“These are the foundations on which the state and society were built, and we will not allow them to be damaged.
“The leaders of the Jewish public in Israel from all parties and camps adhered to these principles in a moment of unity, putting aside their differences and political calculations in order to face the challenge of establishing the state, and this is the compass that needs to point our way today as well,” the statement said.
“Netanyahu’s insistence not to include the word ‘equality’ in the Nation-State Law proves his intention to sow discord in Israeli society. We will unite around the Declaration of Independence,” Gabbay and Livni said.
Despite years of parliamentary discussions, Israel does not have a written constitution. The Knesset has passed a series of Basic Laws, the latest of which is the controversial Nation-State Law
passed in July, that have constitutional force.
The Jewish Nation-State Law declares Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. It anchors in law the state’s menorah emblem, Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, national holidays and the right of all Israeli residents to preserve their heritage without consideration of religion and nationality. The law also downgrades the status of Arabic from an official to a “special” language.
Gabbay and Livni’s announcement comes after widespread protests against the Nation- State Law’s perceived discrimination against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, particularly from Arab-Israelis who make up some 20% of the country’s population.
The Druze community, whose members are conscripted into the IDF like Jewish citizens, has vocally opposed the law. Druze officers have quit their posts in the Israel Defense Forces in protest, and Druze members of Knesset have likewise resigned from the legislative body.
A deal, negotiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that would have resolved the community's opposition to the law fell apart late Thursday night
, with some Druze leaders claiming that the deal had been accepted and others rejecting it.
“We are sick of the promises, of the bluffer from Balfour Street,” said Zionist Union MK Salah Saad, referring the prime minister’s residence, after the meeting. “Unless Netanyahu tells the nation at the Knesset that he will enact a Basic Law about the Druze in the first week after the Knesset’s recess, his proposal to the Druze is not worth the ink on the paper, and it can be used to make a tiara.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report
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