Tuesday, 21 August, 2018

Israeli parliament to vote on contentious Nation State bill

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the bill Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the bill's main supporters
Patty Aguilar | 19 July, 2018, 13:54

The divisive nature of the new legislation that saw thousands of people, including Arabs and secular Jews flocking to streets in protest, has not stopped Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from hailing its adoption as a huge success.

Israel's parliament on Thursday adopted a law defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it could lead to blatant discrimination against Arab citizens.

"This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel", Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, addressing the Knesset after the vote. Despite the text cryptically stating that provision "does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect", one US Jewish group cast that clause as harmful.

"This is a defining moment for the State of Israel", said Netanyahu, speaking in the plenum after the law was passed. "So today we have made a law in stone. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens".

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List alliance in the Israeli parliament, also raised a black flag during the debate against the legislation.

"Today, I will have to tell my children, along with all the children of Palestinian Arab towns ... that the state has declared that it does not want us here", Odeh said in a statement later.

The law, passed in the early hours of Thursday, speaks of Israel as the Jewish historical homeland and says Jews have the right to self-determination there.

Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy Institute said the problem with the law was "what is missing".

Arab citizens account for some 17.5 per cent of Israel's more than eight million population.

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American Jewish organizations also expressed their disapproval of the law.

Even after the changes, critics said the new law would deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority.

The bill has bitterly divided Israeli lawmakers, with some arguing that the law will institutionalise "apartheid" rule in Israel.

The city of Ma'ale Adumim, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians have seen some successes in proving ownership over land now being used for Israeli settlements.

However, it will likely face a challenge at the Supreme Court.

"This law, passed 50 years after the liberation of Judea and Samaria, will normalize the lives of the residents there", said Shaked, referring to the territory by its biblical name.

The law also instructs the state to preserve the Jewish heritage within the diaspora, and contains passages about national holidays, the flag and anthem and making the Hebrew calendar the official calendar. Another 5 percent of the population is non-Arab Christians or other ethnic groups.

Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel.

"This is not a decision I expected from the Likud leadership", he said.

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