(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The ministerial legislation committee on Sunday rejected a bill calling on immigrants and 16-year-old Israelis receiving their first identity cards to pledge an oath of loyalty to the state and promise to perform military or other national service to qualify for citizenship.
According to Gil Solomon, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's media adviser, only the ministers belonging to Israel Beiteinu voted in favor of the bill, which was sponsored by party MK David Rotem, head of the Knesset Law Committee.
"I welcome this decision very much," said Minorities Minister Avishay Braverman. "It's about time that no more laws like this will be suggested. They only create tension with the Israeli Arab population, and they are immoral and undemocratic."
Braverman added that at a time when Israel needed all the international support it could get, approval of the law by the committee would have portrayed the country as a "marginal state."
According to the bill, anyone seeking citizenship, including people moving to Israel and 16-year-olds obtaining their first identity cards, would have to make the following vow: "I pledge to be loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values, and to serve the state in any way asked of me in military service as required by law."
Braverman also told The Jerusalem Post that a coalition of liberal Likud MKs and ministers - Bennie Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan - would join forces with Labor ministers Isaac Herzog, Braverman and Shalom Simhon to defeat the other so-called loyalty bills.
One of them, known as the "Nakba Bill," calls for a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone who commemorates Independence Day as a catastrophe. The other calls for a one-year jail sentence for anyone who denies Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state.
A group of ministers has called for a revote by the cabinet plenum on the Nakba Bill, which was approved by the ministerial legislation committee last week. Braverman said the cabinet would reject the bill this time.
The second bill was approved in preliminary reading with coalition support last Wednesday by a vote of 47 to 34.
Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser is putting together a compromise on the bill. Rather than outlawing these ceremonies, the new bill would end government support for organizations or municipalities that fund or organize such commemorations.
The search for a compromise came after the group of six ministers appealed the law, which made it through the interministerial committee on legislation last week. Hauser said he was looking for a balance between freedom of speech and government funding for these types of ceremonies.
"The government shouldn't have to fund shooting itself in the knee," he said, while indicating that there were freedom of speech issues involved in making it illegal for an individual to take part in private Nakba Day commemorations.