Cabinet passes oath of allegiance proposal

Right to advance more loyalty bills; Yishai to present legislation revoking citizenship of those who join terror groups.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
October 11, 2010 00:50
Netanyahu arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in

netanyahu arrives at cabinet meeting 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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The oath of allegiance proposal that passed in Sunday’s cabinet meeting will be just the first of many such bills to be advanced during the Knesset’s winter session, which begins on Monday, Israel Beiteinu and Shas officials vow.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said on Sunday night he would act to legislate a bill that would allow his ministry to remove citizenship from people who joined Hamas, Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations.

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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu) said he will advance a bill requiring 16-year-olds to sign a declaration of loyalty to Israel and Zionism when they apply for an identity card.

“Israel Beiteinu will continue working to advance the values it believes in and to ensure that there will not be citizenship without loyalty,” the party said in a statement following Sunday’s vote.

At the other end of the political map, Labor ministers Isaac Herzog and Avishay Braverman promised to do everything possible to prevent the loyalty oath and other such proposals from becoming law. But they both stopped short of threatening to resign from the cabinet.

“I am sure that with a public struggle, we could change this decision, and I hope we will stand strong against it,” Herzog said following the vote.



The controversial amendment to Article 5c of the Citizenship Law was approved in the cabinet on Sunday by a vote of 22-8, with the five Labor ministers – including Defense Minister Ehud Barak – and three Likud ministers voting against.

The three Likud no-votes came from ministers Dan Meridor, Bennie Begin and Michael Eitan.

According to the amendment, those seeking to become naturalized citizens will take an oath that their allegiance is to the State of Israel, “as a Jewish and democratic state,” and that they “promise to honor the laws of the state.”

It was agreed that Barak’s proposal to add the words “in the spirit of the principles of the Declaration of Independence” would be submitted for discussion by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, which is chaired by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and where the amendment is now going.

It was also decided that Neeman’s proposal to have all new immigrants, including those coming in under the Law of Return, take the oath would be discussed by the cabinet at a future date.

If the amendment passes the Knesset in its current form, it will only apply to those seeking naturalization – such as foreign workers and Palestinians marrying Israeli Arabs – who are not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return.

The cabinet meeting, which at times got heated, featured an angry exchange between Barak and Neeman, in which Barak said that those who had not internalized the principles of the Declaration of Independence had no place around the cabinet table. He was referring to Neeman’s opposition to adding the words “in the spirit of the principles of the Declaration of Independence” to the oath.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed the importance of the decision.

“The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish people and is a democratic state in which all its citizens – Jewish and non-Jewish – enjoy fully equal rights,” he said. “The combination of these two lofty values expresses the foundation of our national life, and anyone who would like to join us needs to recognize this.”

Netanyahu said that Israel had not been established like any other state, but as “the national state of the Jewish People, as the sovereign state of the Jewish People in its historic homeland.”

“With this amendment, we expect all those who seek to become citizens in the only democracy in the Middle East will recognize that Israel is the Jewish national state and a democratic state,” he said. “There is broad agreement in Israel on the Jewish identity and the democracy of the State of Israel; this is the foundation of our existence here.”

Meridor, during the meeting, said the amendment was superfluous and wouldn’t stop the unscrupulous from lying under oath to gain citizenship. He said the amendment would only add to hard feelings, and that he was not sure of its purpose.

After the cabinet meeting, Herzog and Braverman blamed the bill’s passage on their party chairman, Barak, whom they accused of reaching a deal with Netanyahu and Lieberman enabling the legislation to be brought to the cabinet. They said Barak had zigzagged by speaking out in favor of the bill and then voting against it.

“David Ben-Gurion would be turning over in his grave if he saw this stain on Israel,” Braverman said. “Barak has acted like a satellite, disconnected from the party and not consulted its ministers or MKs. He hasn’t acted as a Labor man for quite some time. I hope he returns to the party and its ideals.”

Barak responded to the criticism by canceling Sunday’s meeting of Labor ministers. His associates called Braverman a “delusional leftist with a mental disorder who is detached from reality.”

They added that “if he doesn’t like the government, we can find a replacement for him.”

Labor rebel MK Eitan Cabel, meanwhile, wrote an angry letter to Herzog and Braverman, begging them to leave the government.

“There is a limit to how many times you can hide behind the small shadow of Ehud Barak,” Cabel said. “You have crossed the line. The spotlight is on you now.

Prove you are leaders by leaving now.”

Opposition MKs competed in their criticism for the controversial legislation.

“I see this bill as instigating internal conflicts for political gain,” opposition leader Tzipi Livni said. “This government talks about strengthening Israel as a Jewish state, but ends up weakening it time and time again.

Lieberman won a few votes today, and Netanyahu gets to keep Lieberman’s votes [in the coalition], but the people of Israel will suffer.”

Meretz leader Haim Oron said that “there apparently is no ethical or political nadir that this government will not sink to, and nothing that can save Labor from this government.”

Hadash head Muhammad Barakei called the bill “a missile intended to blow up the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.” He accused the government of being possessed by a dybbuk of racism.

“The real prime minister is not Netanyahu, but Lieberman,” UAL-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi said.

“The government has become an arm of Israel Beiteinu and adopted its fascist ideology.”

National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari praised the legislation, comparing it to bills submitted by his mentor, Rabbi Meir Kahane, when he was an MK in the mid-1980s.

“Twenty years after the assassination of Kahane, the Likud and the government of Israel are finally admitting that he was right,” Ben-Ari said.

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