Bennett to U.S.: Jewish Nation-state Bill Is Our Affair, Don't Intervene

After U.S. State Department urges Israel to 'stick to its democratic principles,' right-wing politicians lash back.

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Haaretz
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Naftali Bennett speaking at the Knesset.
Naftali Bennett speaking at the Knesset.Credit: Emil Salman
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Haaretz

Economics Minister and Habayit Hayehudi Minister Naftali Bennett slammed the U.S. State Department response to the Jewish nation-state bill, saying the U.S. shouldn't intervene in Israel's internal issues, as politicians from Israel's right also came out in criticism.

"I say to the Americans that the affairs of the State of Israel - we will manage [ourselves]," Bennett told Army Radio, according to Israel National News.

"At the end it is our problem," he said. "This is an internal issue and I think that no one has the right to intervene with it."

The U.S. State Department said Monday evening that it expected Israel to "stick to its democratic principles," in its first response to the Jewish nation-state bill approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet a day earlier.

"Israel is a Jewish and democratic state and all its citizens should enjoy equal rights. We expect Israel to stick to its democratic principles," the State Department said.

Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the U.S. statement by assuring that Israel is a "model democracy," and that's how it will remain, other politicians on the Israeli right responded vehemently.

"We can keep the foundations of democracy even without the help of the partner over the ocean," Coalition whip and Likud MK Zeev Elkin said following the U.S. response, according to Yisrael Hayom.

Elkin, who initiated the most extreme version of the bill, said that he would expect the U.S. to encourage Israel to adopt the American customs of swearing allegiance to the flag and singing the national anthem at schools.

"When this democratic American tradition is adopted in East Jerusalem, in Taibeh and in Wadi Ara, then we'll have a real foundation for a joint discussion of the necessity of the Jewish nation-state bill," he said.

MK Moshe Feiglin, also from the Likud, told Army Radio on Monday that "the intervention of the State Department in crucial questions of the State of Israel is a grave and unbelievable thing."

Aside for giving preference to Israel's Jewish identity rather than its democratic character, Elkin's bill would abolish Arabic’s status as one of Israel’s official languages and mandate construction of new Jewish communities without requiring similar construction for Arabs.

The controversial bill was approved by the cabinet on Sunday, and was supposed to come for a Knesset vote on Tuesday, the next legislative step. However, the head of Israel's government coalition decided on Monday to postpone the Knesset vote. Nevertheless, Netanyahu said on Monday that he was "determined" to have it passed, with or without his political partners' agreement.

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