Netanyahu to Launch Debate on Nation-state Bill

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, January 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, January 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected Wednesday to launch the discussions of the new committee established to debate the nation-state law.

The debate, however, will be merely symbolic for now, since Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon has said no bill can be voted on before the Knesset session ends this weekend. Yinon said that such a broad law must be discussed in depth so it will withstand challenges in the High Court of Justice. This means the bill cannot advance for at least three months.

MK Tzipi Livni, who is expected to represent Zionist Union on the panel along with opposition chairman Isaac Herzog, was critical of the controversial bill, which is essentially the version of the bill sponsored by Avi Dichter, head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“The nation-state bill in its current version, without the word ‘equality,’ is a chauvinistic law that contravenes the Declaration of Independence,” she said. “Netanyahu is stubbornly waving [the flag] during a period that’s so sensitive in terms of relations between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel for purely political considerations.”

Livni called on Ohana to invite Druze representatives to the discussion because of the harm the bill would likely cause them. The committee responded that all the MKs are invited to the discussion, as well as representatives of the Bedouin community. According to the agreed-on version of the bill, the High Court will be required to give priority to the Jewish character of the state over its democratic character in cases where the two values clash. Jewish law is also meant to inspire both MKs in their legislation, and judges in their rulings.

The coalition also plans to downgrade Arab as an official language in some fashion, but exactly how this will be worded is subject to dispute.

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