Lawmakers Unveil Bill Seeking to Bolster Israel's Jewish Identity

New draft by Likud's Yariv Levin and Habayit Hayehudi's Ayelet Shaked asserts that right to self-determination in Israel should be reserved solely for Jews.

Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) on Tuesday unveiled a joint draft of the "Jewish identity bill," a proposed Basic Law seeking to entrench Israel's Jewish character. The bill is considered relatively moderate in comparison to the controversial bill promoted by former MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) during the last Knesset term

The bill asserts that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people and that the right to national self-determination in Israel is reserved solely for Jews. The bill also states that the "Land of Israel" is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, and does not recognize it as being the homeland of any other nation.

A clause in the bill reaffirms the democratic form of government in Israel. Levin and Shaked further insist that under the legislation, the state will continue to uphold the rights of all its citizens, not only the Jewish ones.

The two Knesset members stopped short of explicitly declaring that democratic rule would be subservient to its Jewish character, and left out a clause stating that Arabic would no longer be an official language in Israel. The bill also declares that an Israeli state cannot be established anywhere other than the Land of Israel.

Levin and Shaked hoped to convince MK Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid) to co-sponsor the bill, but Calderon refused, submitting her own draft of the bill on Tuesday.

Calderon's version asserts that all the clauses included in Israel's Declaration of Independence should be adopted as Basic Laws. As per the proposal, Israel will be defined as the state of the Jewish people but will safeguard the human rights of all citizens.

Calderon said that "the Declaration of Independence is a balanced document, Jewish and democratic, based on the principles of justice and equality, relevant today no less than it was when it was written. I chose to promote this bill since I believe that if we do not determine the principles guiding our lives, others will do so in our stead." 

AP
Michal Fattal
Olivier Fitoussi
Tomer Appelbaum