Netanyahu Taps Old-guard Likud Member for Panel on Nation-state Bill

Tzachi Hanegbi will head the committee to soften the wording of the bill recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

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Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzachi Hanegbi at the Knesset, summer 2011.Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Coalition Chairman Tzachi Hanegbi, an old-guard Likud member, will head the committee to craft Israel’s nation-state bill that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to soften.

The bill would define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, but in a version put forward by politicians to the right of Netanyahu, the courts would have leeway to subordinate the state’s democratic character to its Jewish character if those two values were considered at odds.

In the past, two of these politicians, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, said they were willing to withdraw this demand.

The current version is a softer version, but Netanyahu wants the wording approved by the special committee.

This week Netanyahu has already put off a session of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on the bill; that committee will instead discuss the issue on January 1.

According to political sources, amid the current violence marked by Palestinian stabbing attacks and the security forces’ response, Netanyahu does not want to inflame the situation further. In keeping with the coalition agreements, Hanegbi’s committee will include members of every coalition party, and each will have veto power.

“Let there be no doubt, I am advancing the nation-state law in cooperation with all the coalition factions,” Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting. “We will pass this law.”

According to one member of the ministerial committee, “Netanyahu is working to soften the legislation and the committee that he himself pledged to establish.”

Netanyahu also wants the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Some officials of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party have said they favor the softer version of the bill championed by MK Benny Begin (Likud). It states that Israel “upholds equal rights for all its citizens.”