A bill defining Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people” was passed on Sunday 23 November by the Israeli cabinet, despite protests that this bill undermines the “democratic” character of Israel and discriminates against Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who comprise 20% of the population.
Fourteen ministers supported the bill while Justice Minister Livni and five ministers from the Yesh Atid party voted against.
The attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, has also expressed concern. A number of Israeli basic laws use the term “Jewish and democratic”, giving equal weight to both. The new law would enshrine only the Jewish character of the state.
“Yesh Atid and I are for a nation-state bill, just not this nation-state bill,” said Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. “The bill submitted today to the government puts a Jewish state before democracy... It is an anti-democratic bill. Neither I nor Yesh Atid will vote for the nation-state bill as it was submitted.”
The National Democratic Assembly (NDA) party said “the law strengthens the discrimination against the Arab minority and facilitates racist legislation for nationalistic reasons ... the law includes gender discrimination, racist separation and exclusion on the one hand, while preserving the rights and national self-determination only for Jews on the other”.
Taleb Abu Arar, a United Arab List member of the Knesset (Parliament) called the bill a racist law aimed at forcing Arabs out of Israel. The bill now has to go to parliament.