Fight over Jewish nation-state bill smolders

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked suggested the state focus more on being Jewish than democratic.

AN ISRAELI flag near the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN ISRAELI flag near the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The country’s current and former justice ministers faced on Monday in an escalating battle over the future balance of the country’s sometimes conflicting Jewish and democratic values.
Speaking at the First Israeli Congress on Judaism and Democracy, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked blasted the Supreme Court for going too far in interpreting the power of the country’s democratic pillars, and for doing so constantly at the expense of the Jewish pillar.
“From a constitutional perspective, greater emphasis is given these days to the value of democracy, and we need to give the courts constitutional tools to enhance the balance toward the value of Jewishness,” she said at the event in Jerusalem.
“The State of Israel is a Jewish state and not a state for all of its nationalities,” adding that the Knesset is suspicious that this is the direction the courts have tried to take the country in.
Regarding the debate over annexation, she said, “We are talking only about annexing the part of Area C where 200,000 Jews live. We have no intention of annexing the areas where concentrations of Arabs live in the territories.”
Responding, her immediate predecessor, Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, said that Shaked’s Jewish nation-state bill would “trample” equal rights and that the current Knesset “is harming democracy.”
“‘Giving balance to the state’s Jewish character’ has become code for eliminating rights. Where is the equality in this Jewish state?” she asked. “A State of Israel which does not have equality is not a Jewish state.”
She predicted that both Shaked’s bill and the views held by her and the government – wanting to hold onto land in the West Bank instead of returning it in a land-for-peace deal – could doom the state’s Jewish character by eliminating the chance for a two-state solution and will leave a situation where the many Palestinians in the West Bank will have receive Israeli citizenship.
“Justice Minister Shaked wants to hold onto all of the State of Israel. But we will get to a situation where this will become impossible because in that case, the Arab population will also want equality” and will then become the dominant majority population.
Former chief justice Aharon Barak spoke about the importance of the state’s secular and Haredi sectors reaching understandings and compromises in which both sides respect the other.
But United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said, “The world isn’t equal and I don’t believe in equality... [Barak] wants synthesis... but there has not been a decision which didn’t go against the Haredim.”