Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid attacked in a press conference ahead of his party's weekly meeting, a decision that the government is planning on passing this week, which says that "the values of Zionism, as they are expressed in Basic Law: Nation-State of the Jewish People, will be the leading and decisive values in setting public policy, domestic and foreign policy, legislation and actions of the government and all of its units and institutions."
Lapid argued that the decision was discriminatory against Druze, including those who served in the IDF, and that rather than the decision representing Zionism, it represented racism.
"According to this bill, if a Jew evades the IDF draft – he will receive more than him [ex-IDF Druze soldier]," Lapid said.
"Zionism is not racism. Zionism is the realization of the vision of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It is time Lapid learns this."Yitzhak Wasserlauf
Lapid took a further jab at Netanyahu, joking that it "would not do any harm if artificial intelligence could replace your entire government."
Ben-Gvir: Lapid is an 'ignoramus and a liar,' their decision does not discriminate
Both National Security Minister MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and Development of the Negev and Galilee and National Resilience Minister MK Yitzhak Wasserlauf responded harshly to Lapid, with Ben-Gvir calling him an "ignoramus and liar." Both argued that the bill would award equal benefits to ex-IDF soldiers no matter which sector they came from.
Wasserlauf, who initiated the proposal, added that Lapid had ignored the fact that there was no longer a Jewish majority in the Galilee, and the fact that only Jewish towns have a limit on the number of new residents they can accept, while Arab towns have no limit. The decision would thus rectify discrimination against Jews in the Galilee, Wasserlauf argued.
"Zionism is not racism. Zionism is the realization of the vision of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. It is time Lapid learns this," Wasserlauf said.
The proposal is meant to put the content of what is known as the “Nation-State Law” into action. Among other provisions, the law, which passed in 2018, states that “the state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”
According to Wasserlauf, his proposal would “establish and strengthen the connection of the Jewish people to this land. [It would] allow us to give preference to combat soldiers, specifically, and those who serve, generally, and strengthen settlement in the Negev and Galilee.”
Haredi ministers expressed concern that their constituents, the vast majority of whom do not serve in the military and do not adhere to Zionism by name, would face discrimination. The cabinet delayed the vote on the proposal to Monday, in order to make slight changes in the wording so that haredim would not lose out on its benefits. However, at press time on Monday, the proposal had not yet passed.
Hadash-Ta'al MK Ahmad Tibi also accused the government of racism, ahead of his party's weekly meeting on Monday.
Tibi mentioned a report by KAN News from Sunday, according to which Justice Minister Yariv Levin explained to the cabinet that one of the reasons that the government's judicial reforms were important, was because "Israeli Arabs want to live in Jewish towns in the Galilee," and that Jewish residents did not want this, but that there were currently no High Court judges who would give the Jewish residents what they want.
According to Tibi, young Israeli Arabs face "severe difficulties" when looking for an apartment in Arab towns, and therefore they look to neighboring Jewish towns or to mixed Jewish-Arab towns or cities. The reasons for this included a lack of government investment in infrastructure in Arab towns, which then blocked them from building new neighborhoods.
"This is legitimate," Tibi said. "Speaking about Arabs moving to a Jewish or mixed town as something threatening is discrimination. If this would have been said about Jews in Europe, that would sound terrible here in Israel."
"Jews and Arabs can live together, and this cannot be used as an excuse to appoint racist judges to the High Court," Tibi said.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report