Israel adopts divisive Jewish nation-state law

Binyamin Netanyahu said that the parliamentary vote was a “historic vote in the history of Zionism”

Binyamin Netanyahu said that the parliamentary vote was a “historic vote in the history of Zionism”Ronen Zvulun AP

The Israeli parliament has approved a controversial new law that defines the country as an exclusively Jewish nation state.

The bill, backed by the right-wing government, passed through parliament after months of political argument and some Arab lawmakers shouted and ripped up their papers after the vote. The bill, which is largely symbolic, also downgrades Arabic as an official language.

Netanyahu hailed the passage of the law as "a pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel".

"While the democratic State of Israel facilitates freedom of religion and affords people of various backgrounds the right to visit and reside there, the reality is that Israel is inherently a Jewish state and affirming that fact does not contravene the liberties that it benevolently bestows to individuals of other faiths", the group said in a statement.

The Turkish foreign ministry called for the "necessary response" from the worldwide community to the law, which it said was aimed at eliminating the vision of a two-state solution.

The law becomes one of the so-called Basic Laws, which, like a constitution, guide Israel's legal system and are usually more hard to repeal than regular laws.

Turkey said the legislation "trampled" on universal law and the rights of Israeli Arabs.

The law will initiate a long-term process that will chip away at the rights and status of Muslim and Christian Arab citizens of Israel, according to opponents.

Critics warn that "the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority".

Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah concluded that the law "serves to clarify for any who were confused the apartheid and racist nature of the occupying entity".

"So today we have made a law in stone".

Netanyahu said, "We enshrined in law the basic principle of our existence".

Laws such as the Right of Return, which provides all Jews in the world with automatic Israeli citizenship, or budgetary allotments that encourage Jewish settlement, will now have more firm legal basis, say proponents of the law.

The legislation, dubbed the 'nation state law,' has been labelled by members of the country's Palestinian minority as racist.

Benny Begin, the son of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, and the founder of Mr Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, abstained from voting, warning of the party's growing disconnect from human rights.

You can look at the Jewish Nation-State law from two perspectives.

Opposition parties even mocked this possibility by suggesting an amendment that would add the language "The goal of this Basic Law is to please the electorate on the right before elections" to the bill.

The issue of Israel as a Jewish state has become increasingly important in recent years and a key dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel shall always remain a strong, proud and vibrant democracy, and there is nothing in this law that will diminish that.

Palestinian officials with both the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah also joined voices to denounce the law, describing it as a "racist" and "dangerous" measure. It also defines Jewish settlement of the land as a "national interest".

Hours before the final vote, lawmakers deleted a clause that would have authorized the creation of communities "composed of people having the same faith and nationality to the exclusive character of that community".

Latest News