Netanyahu spotlights Jews’ historic connection to Israel

Loyalty oath bill sparks rift between Barak, disloyal Labor ministers.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 8, 2010 04:06
3 minute read.
Ehud Barak

barak kill 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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On the day before Arab League foreign ministers were to gather in Libya and discuss whether the Palestinian Authority should continue direct talks with Israel without a settlement moratorium, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed publicly at two events Thursday the Jewish people’s link to the Land of Israel, and the nature of Israel as a Jewish state.

His words came a day after he announced that he would bring a proposal to the cabinet on Sunday that naturalized citizens who were not eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return must declare an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish, democratic state.”

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Though Netanyahu’s aides denied there was any connection between the prime minister’s comments and the diplomatic process, it was hard to shake the notion that his words were either meant to appease the right wing of his coalition on the eve of a possible decision to extend the settlement-construction moratorium, or aimed at the Arab League and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who adamantly refuse to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

“The nature of the State of Israel is that it is the national state of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said during a visit to Lod in the morning. “It is a Jewish state, but it is also a democratic state.”

Noting that non-Jews lived in the country and “fully deserve equal rights in the Israeli democracy,” and that the country was a “democratic state, in the spirit of our Declaration of Independence,” Netanyahu said it was still both natural and valid to ask those seeking to join the country to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.

In the afternoon, at a memorial service marking nine years since the assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi, Netanyahu said that the question of the Jewish people’s historic ties to Israel was central, “the basis of everything.”



Regardless of what the eventual solution to the diplomatic conflict here will be, he said, and regardless of one’s political leanings, on an ideological and principled level, “no one should deny the Jewish people’s connection throughout the generations to the Land of Israel.

“We should not educate our children to see any part of our ancestral inheritance as a foreign land,” he went on. “We do not need to alter the historic truth because of a practical need.”

The loyalty oath bill is expected to pass by a wide margin. Only the five Labor Party ministers and ministers Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor of the Likud are expected to oppose it.

Even dovish Likud minister Michael Eitan endorsed the bill on Thursday.

But Netanyahu could face problems if the bill causes a rebellion in Labor. Party chairman Ehud Barak said he could support the bill with minor changes.

But Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog demanded a Labor ministerial meeting to decide how to block the bill, and MK Ghaleb Majadle said Labor must quit the coalition over the legislation.

“Labor is shaming itself time and time again and proving that its presence in the government has no impact other than covering up abomination after abomination,” Meretz leader Haim Oron said.


Meanwhile, a Ma’agar Mohot poll broadcast on Israel Radio on Thursday found that support for Israel Beiteinu had grown substantially.

The poll found that if elections were held now, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s party would rise from 15 seats to 21.

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