'Arabic Out'

Right-wing MKs Aim to Make Hebrew Israel’s Only Official Language

The legislators say such a law would 'foster mutual trust in society and preserve the values of democracy.’

Yitzhar
Adar Cohen

Knesset members from Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud and Habayit Hayehudi are pushing a bill to make Hebrew the only official language of the State of Israel.

Current Israeli law borrows from legislation from the British Mandate period, under which the government and local authorities must publish all announcements and forms in Arabic. The new bill would annul this stipulation, as well as the use of Arabic at government ministries and in the courts.

According to the bill, highway signs would still have Arabic, “and everyone has the freedom to use other languages in the private and public domains, to nurture them and teach them.”

The bill was initiated by MK Shimon Ohayon (Yisrael Beiteinu) and has been signed by two members of his party — David Rotem and Hamad Amar. High-profile right-wing MKs Moshe Feiglin (Likud) and Orit Strock (Habayit Hayehudi) are also on board.

“In most countries around the world the language of the country is the language spoken by the majority of the population. Therefore, in the State of Israel the Hebrew language has the status of the language of the country, which should be enshrined in legislation,” the MKs said in a statement.

They said such a law would “contribute to social solidarity” and help “build the collective identity necessary for fostering mutual trust in society and preserving the values of democracy.”

MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu,) one of the initiators of the bill, is a Druze and resident of the town of Shefar'am in the north of the country. "The bill will save public money in communities where it is clear that Arab contractors do not intend contending for tenders," he said.

"I have no intention of disqualifying Arabic as an official language. I myself am an Arabic speaker and I represent the Druze community in the Knesset. This is the sort of situation in which you know how a bill becomes law but you don't know what the wording will be."