Loyalty oath vote seen as test for Barak

Labor leader says issue very emotive; Barak expected to support bill, most of his party's ministers expected to oppose.

barak kill 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
barak kill 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will bring to the cabinet on Sunday the wording of a new pledge of allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” that naturalized citizens not making aliya under the Law of Return will be asked to make.
The new declaration is expected to pass by a wide margin. Only the five Labor ministers, and the Likud’s Dan Meridor and Bennie Begin – out of the 30-minister cabinet – are expected to vote against the new pledge.
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The ministers will be asked to vote on an amendment to the Citizenship and Entry Law whereby the declaration naturalized citizens must make will read: “I declare that I will be a loyal citizen to the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and I obligate myself to respecting its laws.”
There is likely to be a debate during the meeting on the exact wording of the pledge, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak expected to try and “soften” it. Barak left open the possibility that he could vote for it if the wording were changed slightly to include a reference to Israel’s declaration of independence.
In what is expected to be a stormy Labor ministerial meeting prior to the cabinet session, Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman intends to demand that Barak vote against the amendment.
“This proposal would not benefit Israel, sends a problematic message to minorities,and would harm Israel’s image in the world,” Braverman said.
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog agreed that the bill would discriminate against minorities. He called the proposal “unnecessary and wrong.”
Barak responded that Labor ministers would be allowed to vote according to their conscience.
The declaration will not have to be made by Arab citizens nor by new immigrants arriving under the Law of Return.
The group likely to be impacted most by the pledge are Palestinians from beyond the Green Line married to Israeli Arabs, and then asking for citizenship on the grounds of family reunification. Currently there are an estimated 25,000 Israeli Arabs married to Palestinians from beyond the Green Line.
A large majority is expected for the bill in the Knesset after it passes in the cabinet. Braverman intends to do everything possible to block it in the Knesset, but his spokesman said he did not intend to quit if it passed.
“At this point, we don’t intend to do anything bombastic,” he said.