'Israel Should Treat Its Minorities the Way We Always Wanted to Be Treated'

Intelligence minister Dan Meridor says requiring loyalty oath to 'Jewish and democratic state' will alienate Arab public in Israel.

Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor criticized Monday an amendment to the Citizenship Law, passed in a cabinet vote on Sunday, which requires individuals wishing to become Israeli citizens to declare allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish, democratic state." 

Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor during his tour of the West Bank settlement of Efrat
Haggai Offen

In an interview on Israel Radio, Meridor said that "from the moment a Jewish state was established, and it is an unprecedented historic success, we are obliged to show compassion toward our minorities - the way we have always yearned to be treated by others."

Meridor said that the amendment to the citizenship law was unjustified, saying that "sometimes you pay a price when there is a problem to be fixed, but there is no problem. There is no justification for the passing of this law now."

"We are a Jewish state, we are the state for the Jewish people, we wrote this in our basic laws. This is a known and a given fact – that is how we were established by the United Nations," Meridor said, adding the question "do we have to continue repeating these words in relation to every context, when we have already won the historical battle?"

"Lately there has been suggestion, after suggestion, after suggestion meant to send messages to the Arab public - 'this is not yours, this is not your country,' and there are even those who say 'we will soon transfer you to a Palestinian state.' The Arab citizens are constantly reminded that they do not belong, and yet we demand loyalty from them," Meridor added.

The cabinet voted Sunday by a majority in favor of the amendment, which was submitted by Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman. But ministers had been divided on the issue since it was first raised.

The amendment is one of the promises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ultra-nationalist party Yisrael Beitenu in the coalition agreements. Since coming into government Yisrael Beitenu has advanced a long list of "loyalty" laws, which many consider to be discriminatory against Israel's non-Jewish citizens.

Meridor has been an adamant objector to the amendment since it was brought before the Knesset several months ago.

Meridor (Likud) objected to the addition of the words "Jewish and democratic" to the oath, saying that this terminology would only make Israel's Arab citizens more extreme.