Ministers Reject Yisrael Beiteinu's Loyalty Oath Bill

Bill aims to require those seeking to retain Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state.

The ministerial legislative committee rejected on Sunday a bill stating that those who wish to retain Israeli citizenship would have to declare their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state.

The bill, put forth by Yisrael Beiteinu's MK David Rotem, stated that oath would include a pledge of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish, Zionist, and democratic state, to its emblems and values, and serving Israel either through military service or through any equivalent alternatives.

Almost all of the committee's members opposed the proposed bill, excluding only Yisrael Beiteinu MKs.

Sunday's decision dealt a blow to Yisrael Beitenu, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The proposal was central in his election campaign last February. The party finished a strong third by playing on the perceived disloyalty of Israel's Arab citizens, roughly one-fifth of the population.

Although Yisrael Beiteinu officials stressed the bill was aimed at all Israelis, they said it was important given what they described as the anti-Israel behavior of Israel's Arab citizens during the 2006 Lebanon War the December-January Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Yisrael Beitenu lawmakers can still try to get it through parliament as an independent initiative but it appears to lack majority support.

Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman welcomed the decision, saying that "bills such as this one will not be brought before this government or any future government, and sanity will once again play a role in the governing of the state of Israel."

"The administration must support the moderates and fight the extremists. Opposition to this bill is a necessary step in that direction," he added.

The explanatory notes accompanying the bill stated that Israeli citizens have shown signs of disloyalty to the country, its emblems, and its values in recent years, and are dodging military service and national service.

On Saturday, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, comprised of Israeli Arabs, issued an urgent letter to President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, warning of the possible ramifications of recent legislation proposals made by right wing MKs, including the loyalty oath bill.

According to the letters, this legislation could have "grave and existential" consequences for Israel's Arabs.

The committee convened an emergency meeting on Saturday in response to a recent spate of legislation the committee has described as "racist and fascist" and aimed against Israel's Arab public.

The legislation includes a bill to outlaw the mourning of the Nakba, or catastrophe, of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from Israel on the day of Israel's establishment.

Another bill, which has already gained initial Knesset approval, aims to make it a crime to publicly deny Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.