Israeli Ministers to Consider Watered-down 'Jewish State Law’ on Sunday

The newest version of the bill, sponsored by two right-wing Knesset members, has been stripped of some of its controversial clauses.

Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked.
Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked, slated to be the next justice minister. OIivier Fitoussi

A modified proposal for a Basic Law that establishes Israel’s status as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” will be submitted to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

The bill’s sponsors, MKs Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and Yariv Levin (Likud), have revoked its more controversial clauses, which subjugated democratic values to Jewish ones. They hope the prime minister and cabinet members, including those who previously opposed the bill, will now endorse it.

Ministers Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah), who had intended to torpedo the bill, are likely to change their position and support the bill due to the major changes in it, lawmakers said.

In recent years the right wing has attempted to pass the so-called “Jewish state law” in a bid to force the High Court of Justice to give Israel’s Jewish identity priority over its democratic one in cases in which the two clashed.

Livni came out vehemently against the previous version of the bill. It defined Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, where the Jewish people have the exclusive right to national self-determination. The bill called the “Land of Israel” the exclusive homeland of the Jewish nation and no other.

Shaked and Levin have since revoked the explicit stipulation subjugating Israel’s democratic values to its Jewish values as well as the controversial clauses dealing with the state’s Jewish identity and democratic government.

In the current draft, Israel is defined as a “Jewish and democratic” state. To this the sponsors added key clauses from the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom.

The bill also says the state is committed to the personal rights of all its citizens. The clause saying Arabic would not be an official language in Israel has also been scrapped.

Shaked and Levin are acting to set up a committee of coalition faction heads to advance an agreed version of the bill.