Liberman calls for Nation-State Law to be changed for Druze community

Druze activists and leaders welcomed the call to change the Nation-State Law.

Druze-Israelis protest the Nation-State Law (photo credit: REUTERS)
Druze-Israelis protest the Nation-State Law
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman called on fellow lawmakers to support a change to the Nation-State Law and to establish Israel’s Declaration of Independence as a Basic Law to ensure equality for Druze and other minority groups after the name of the Druze IDF soldier who fell in a covert operation in Gaza three and a half years ago was released on Sunday.

“There is a clear contradiction between the Nation-State Law in its current version and all the words of praise for the hero of Israel, the late Lt.-Col. Mahmoud Kheir al-Din, and many other good people who fell while serving the state,” said Liberman on Sunday.

“This is an opportunity to amend the Nation-State Law and establish the Declaration of Independence as a Basic Law,” the finance minister said. “I call on both the opposition and the coalition to recalculate the path and instead of settling for words like ‘brothers in arms’ to Druze society, to do what is necessary.”

Lt.-Col. Mahmoud Kheir al-Din, from the Druze town of Hurfeish in the North, was killed by friendly fire during a firefight with Hamas gunmen while carrying out a lengthy special operation in the Gaza Strip on November 11, 2018.

"Basic Law: Israel – The nation-state of the Jewish people" was approved by the Knesset a few months earlier that July. It stipulates that “The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, religious, and historic right to self-determination” and that “The fulfillment of the right of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

Druze protesters with their flags in Tel Aviv  (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)Druze protesters with their flags in Tel Aviv (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

The law faced controversy when it was passed, as it does not guarantee the equality of all Israeli citizens, especially minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians. The High Court upheld the Nation-State Law last year, saying it was not within its purview to order the law be canceled or be involved in its content. The lone dissenting judge said that some parts of the law challenge Israel's democratic nature, as it ignores Arab and Druze citizens and harms the principle of equality.

Yaya Fink, director-general of the Darkenu movement, welcomed the call by Liberman on Sunday, saying: “We do not need a blood covenant but a covenant of living in equality. The Druze and Arab citizens of Israel are all good enough to take care of us in the hospitals and fight alongside us in the security forces, and they should be good enough for amending the Nation-State Law because equality is a fundamental value in democracy.”

Dr. Amir Khnifess, head of the Institute for Druze Studies, repeated the call for the Nation-State Law to be changed and for the Declaration of Independence to be established as a Basic Law.

“It is time to right the terrible injustice that the Nation-State Law causes the Druze, who daily risk their lives for the defense of the homeland,” said Khnifess. “It is time to realize that hundreds of members of the community have given their lives for the state and thousands such as Kheir al-Din have protected its security since the establishment of the state. It is time to translate the great slogans ‘blood covenant’ into a true covenant of life and to give equal status to the community, which is a symbol and role model for a real connection with the Jewish people in Israel.”

MK Rabbi Gilad Kariv (Labor) expressed support for Liberman’s call to change the law, calling it “an important opening for anchoring the principle of equality in the Basic Laws of the State of Israel, and strengthening the constitutional status of the Declaration of Independence.”

“The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which is responsible for enacting the Basic Laws, discussed the issue at the previous session and will convene again in the coming days to examine the feasibility of the matter,” he said.

Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg and Meretz MK Mossi Raz will both submit separate bills amending the Nation-State Law, the two announced following Liberman’s statement.

The bills will go to a vote at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. The Likud stated that it will oppose any changes made to the Nation-State Law, claiming that the amendment will lead to the annulment of the Law of Return and the “flooding of Israel with millions of Muslim immigrants.”