Israeli Parliament Pushes Forward Controversial 'Jewish State' Bill

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed in the first reading the controversial legislation that defines Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people," causing backlash among Arabs, the major minority in the country.

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, approved on Wednesday in a preliminary vote the law called "Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People," which provides the Jews with the unique right for self-determination in the county, and as a result sparked protests among the Arab minority.

The bill states, among other things, that "The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which they realize their aspiration to self-determination in accordance with their cultural and historical heritage; the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people; Jerusalem is the capital of Israel; the state’s language is Hebrew; the Arabic language has a special status, and its speakers have the right to language-accessible state services in their native language," as quoted by the Knesset press service.

According to the bill, the Jewish calendar becomes the official calendar of Israel, while the main principles of the Jewish traditions become the main source of law for the country's legal system.

At the same time, the bill stipulates that "every citizen of Israel, regardless of their religion or nationality, has the right to actively preserve their culture, heritage, language and identity."

According to the press service, the law passed its preliminary reading with 48 lawmakers, out of 120-seat parliament, voting in favor of the legislation and 41 voting against it. 

Several members of the Arab parties were removed from the plenary session due to their public outrage with the proposed law.

If passed in the Knesset, the law would become one of the so-called Basic Laws, which serve as the country's constitution.

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, the Arabs constitute to about 20 percent of Israel's 8.5-million population, and they have the same civil rights as the Jews, including voting rights and the right to hold government posts. 

However, many Israeli Arabs are seeking to raise their civil status in the Israeli society, in particular, defending the rights of the Palestinians living in the West Bank.

The bill will now be transferred to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in preparation for its first reading.

In 2014, Israeli right-wing lawmakers already tried to pass the Jewish nation-state bill in the Knesset, however, the document, approved by the government, was not sent to the parliamentary hearings due to the early election announced at that moment.


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