Netanyahu's Revamped Jewish Nation-state Bill Won't Constitutionally Guarantee Equality for All Citizens

Proposal doesn't take as hard a line as earlier draft, but also doesn't express commitment to equality of all citizens, as Livni wants.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Jerusalem, November 18, 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Jerusalem, November 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to submit to the cabinet a version of the Jewish nation-state bill that does not guarantee the equality of all Israel's citizens in the country's de facto constitution, as does an alternative proposal put forth by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu's proposal also doesn't take as hard a line as an earlier draft that seeks to remove Arabic as an official language of the country and promote the construction of homes for Jews across the country.

Under the Netanyahu version, which is subject to change before it goes to the cabinet on Sunday, only Jews will have the right to national self-determination in Israel, which the bill defines as both a Jewish and democratic state.

The proposal by Livni, who objects to Netanyahu's draft, states that “Israel is the Jewish people’s nation-state, where it realizes its right to self-determination. It’s a democracy based on the foundations of freedom, justice and peace, and maintains equality for all its citizens.”

If passed, the nation-state law will be a Basic Law. Though Israel does not have a constitution, its Basic Laws have constitutional status in the sense that they are given more weight than regular laws.

Education Minister Shay Piron met yesterday with MKs Zeev Elkin (Likud), Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid), who are all sponsoring various versions of a nation-state bill, in a bid to reach a draft on which all the coalition members could agree. They were unable to settle on a single proposal.

The controversy over the nation-state bill has sparked a coalition crisis.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, said that if the cabinet doesn’t approve the bill on Sunday, his party will quit the coalition. “Everything will fall apart,” he said.

Early this week, after Livni scuttled a vote planned for the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, Bennett said his party would stop cooperating with Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and Livni’s Hatnuah.

“We won’t support any bill by Lapid or Livni,” said Bennett.

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