Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor during his tour of the West Bank settlement of Efrat
Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor during his tour of the West Bank settlement of Efrat. Photo by Haggai Offen
Text size
related tags

Cabinet minister Dan Meridor's objection to an amendment to the Citizenship Law, which requires prospective Israeli citizens to declare allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish, democratic state” and commit to respecting the state’s laws, succeeded in delaying a scheduled vote on the matter.

Meridor (Likud) objected to the addition of the words "Jewish and democratic" to the oath, saying that this terminology would only make Israel's Arab citizens more extreme.

The amendment to the citizenship oath was scheduled for a vote during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, as part of a larger discussion on Israel's immigration policy. Part of the discussion focused on the reunification of families comprised of West Bank Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

The amendment to the Citizenship Law would symbolize another hurdle for Palestinians seeking Israeli citizenship or residency after marrying an Israeli Arab.

The explanation sent out to government ministers ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting states that the purpose of the amendment is to make it harder for Palestinian terrorist groups to recruit Palestinians who have acquired Israeli citizenship to carry out attacks.

Meridor sharply criticized the proposed amendment, saying it was an unnecessary provocation aimed at Israeli Arabs. The Likud minister quoted Ze'ev Jabotinsky in his testimony before a committee that examined the future of the British mandate in Palestine in 1937, and said that the constitution of the state that will be established needn't explicitly spell out its national character – it is enough that there will be a Jewish majority.

"Why does every bill need the word 'Jewish' in it – to show the Arab citizens that it doesn't belong to them?" Meridor said. "Then we're all shocked when they radicalize their stance. There are people here, why escalate and make things worse all the time? The majority doesn’t need to remind the minority that it is in fact a minority all the time."

One of the ultra-Orthodox ministers lashed out at Meridor asking why he had conjured Jabotinsky and not Abraham. Meridor adopted the suggestion and brought an example from the Bible, saying that "when Abraham went to Egypt, he told his wife Sarah to say that she was his sister, and not his wife, so that Pharaoh would let them live in Egypt. A hostile person who seeks Israeli citizenship will have no problem swearing allegiance to a Jewish state."

Surprisingly, it was fellow Likud minister Benny Begin who defended Meridor's position, saying that in light of the gravity of the issue, a separate discussion must be held on the matter at a later date. Several additional minister supported Begin's call and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to postpone the vote.