A controversial bill has recently been introduced to the Knesset, proposing to legislate a predominance of the country’s Jewish identity over and above its democratic one, particularly with regard to future judicial rulings. The bill, submitted by coalition whip MK Yariv Levin and MK Ayelet Shaked, the head of Habayit Hayehudi’s Knesset faction, is a softer version of one which was prepared in the previous Knesset by former Kadima MK Avi Dichter.
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The new version, labeled the Jewish State Law, stipulates that the State of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people and that the right of national self-determination within Israel belongs exclusively to the Jewish people. The next committs to upholding the personal rights of all its citizens.
MKs Levin and Shaked called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to embrace the proposed new legislation. They said that they “expect Netanyahu to support the bill in line with his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people.”
In an attempt to soften the controversial version proposed by Dichter, several changes were introduced. A specific mention of the subservience of the democratic nature of the state to its Jewish character has been dropped in the newer version. A further earlier proposal to remove Arabic as one of Israel’s official languages has been dropped as well. Nevertheless, the bill emphasizes foremost the affinity of the Jewish people to the state and the land, above that of other nations. The democratic character only comes as the second clause of the proposed law.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid have both stated that they would strike down the bill in its present form. Livni has consistently opposed this bill, preventing Dichter from advancing it during the previous Knesset term.