Netanyahu Won't Amend Contentious Nation-state Law Despite Druze Outrage

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, Jerusalem, July 19, 2018.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, Jerusalem, July 19, 2018.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers are not expected to make changes to the nation-state law despite ongoing protests against the legislation by the Druze community. Instead, a plan will be formulated that “reflects Israel’s deep commitment to the Druze community,” according to a statement from Netanyahu.

The plan was laid out Thursday by Druze lawmakers Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Akram Hasoon (Kulanu), together with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara.

>> Israel has its nation-state law, but what about the Druze? ■ Israel's contentious nation-state law: Everything you need to know

After the meeting, which was held at the Israel Defense Forces’ headquarters in Tel Aviv, the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu was expected to meet with the leader of Israel’s Druze community, Muwafaq Tarif, and other community representatives on Friday.

Amar and Hasoon, together with a third Druze lawmaker, Saleh Saad (Zionist Union), petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday, asking the court to annul the law or rule out parts of it on the grounds of infringement on basic rights, including the right to equality. According to the three lawmakers, minorities have no status in the law, which essentially exiles the Druze and others despite their service and loyalty to the state.

The nation-state law is designed to alter the application of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty in court rulings, and permit judges to give priority to Israel’s Jewish character in their rulings. The government coalition tried to get a more sweeping version of the nation-state bill passed, which would have brought about more significant change.

Earlier on Thursday, Kahlon admitted that mistakes were made in the legislation and that it should be amended to prevent harm to the Druze community. "The enactment of the nation-state law was done hastily," he told Army Radio, "we were wrong and we need to fix it." Kahlon added that the petition to the High Court of Justice filed by his party member Hasoon – and Amar and Saad – was submitted with his consent.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who supported and voted for the law, admitted on Wednesday to belatedly realizing that the law hurt the feelings of members of Israel's Druze community.

"That is of course is not the Israeli government's intention," Bennett tweeted. "These are our blood brothers, who stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the battlefield and who have entered into a life covenant with us. We, the government of Israel, have the responsibility of finding a way to repair the rift."

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