Ministers vote on ‘Jewish State’ bill

“Israel has 11 Basic Laws, and none of them deals with the country’s identity or national definition.”

The Knesset (photo credit: ITZIK EDRI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The Knesset
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation votes Sunday on the controversial Jewish State bill, which seeks to anchor Israel’s status as the Jewish state in law.
MK Avi Dichter (Likud) originally proposed the bill in 2011. The last time it came before ministers, in October 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed a ministerial committee to reach a consensus on what should be included, but the committee did not succeed.
Dichter said then that the bill was especially important because a terrorism wave at the time demonstrated that “the Palestinians no longer hide their goal to erase the nation-state of the Jewish people. The events of recent months proved to anyone who still needed proof that this is a battle for the country’s image and national identity.
“We hear in demonstrations and interviews that Palestinian leaders talk about eliminating the Jewish nation-state and demand to get all the land, from Metulla to Tel Aviv to Beersheba to Eilat,” he added.
“Israel has 11 Basic Laws, and none of them deals with the country’s identity or national definition,” Dichter explained.
“This bill is meant to protect Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people, in that it anchors the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in a Basic Law.”
The legislation states that “the State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it realizes its aspirations for self-determination according to its cultural and historic traditions. The realization of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
The proposal mentions that Israel is Jewish and democratic, that the national anthem is Hatikva, and describes the national symbol and flag.
It also mentions the Law of Return, and calls for the government to work to strengthen Israel-Diaspora ties.
It states that Hebrew is Israel’s official language and Arabic has a special status, requiring all government services to be available in Arabic.
Israel Democracy Institute’s Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Dr. Amir Fuchs said Jewish- state bills are “meant to establish the identity of the state without any balance between it being a nationstate and a democratic state, thus pushing the democratic foundations of the state from the center to the margins. It completely changes the constitutional order in the State of Israel since it was founded.”
The IDI researchers said the bill will harm Israel’s image in the world as a Western democracy, and they called it “completely pointless,” in that it won’t convince anyone who doesn’t think the Jewish people deserves its own state to change his or her mind.