Abbas Lauds Israeli MKs Who Oppose Jewish Nation-state Bill

Speaking in the South African capital, Pretoria, Palestinian president says it is important that Israel consider what the proposed law may mean for the region.

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Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas prays ahead of a meeting with the Advisory Council of his ruling Fatah party in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 22, 2014.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas prays ahead of a meeting with the Advisory Council of his ruling Fatah party in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 22, 2014.Credit: AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he supports Israeli members of parliament who oppose the plan to formalize Israel's status as a Jewish state.

Speaking in the South African capital, Pretoria, Abbas said it is important that Israel consider what the proposed law may mean for the region.

"We need to ask this question to the Israeli people and to ask this to the Israeli government: What does this bill mean for peace?" Abbas said, speaking through a translator.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promoting the controversial nation-state bill, a draft of a quasi-constitutional Basic Law that defines Israel as a Jewish state and granting national rights only to the Jewish people, while upholding all citizens' rights as individuals.

Critics of the bill say it discriminates against Israel's Arab minority who make up about a fifth of the population of 8 million.

Abbas is on a three day state visit to South Africa, where he met with President Jacob Zuma to discuss security in the Middle East, including tensions at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The South African government recognized Palestine as a state in 1995, soon after the country's first all-race elections and has historically lobbied for Palestinian self-determination.

Zuma said Netanyahu's support for the bill showed Israel's refusal to find a solution to the conflict with Palestine.

"From where we stand, it looks like Israel is saying 'We don't care. We do whatever pleases us,'" said Zuma, who is advocating a two state solution. "I don't think that's how the business of global relations should be conducted."

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