Netanyahu: New Jewish Nation-state Bill Does Not Contradict Equality

Netanyahu vows to see new bill passed, saying it enshrines Israel's status as national home for 'Jewish people and Jerusalem as our eternal capital'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at government meeting in Jerusalem. May 4, 2017
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Monday Israel's new nation-state bill, which passed a key legislative hurdle this week, saying "there is no contradiction between the law and equal rights for all of Israel's citizens."

The controversial bill enshrines Israel's status as “the national home of the Jewish people,” and that “the right to realize self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also revokes Arabic's "official language" status in Israel.

The bill was blasted by Israel's opposition and its Israeli Arab party as a "declaration of war" against Israel’s Arab citizens.

>> Israel's new 'nation-state' law: A cornerstone of apartheid | Haaretz editorial >>

Netanyahu praised the bill in a meeting with his Likud party and voiced support for it, saying his government would put it to a vote and usher it into law during the Knesset's summer session. "This is enshrines the fact that Israel is the nation-state for the Jewish people, in their historical homeland. It also enshrines into Israeli law our flag, our anthem and Jerusalem being our eternal capital."

Netanyahu later referenced the law in a special Knesset session in honor of Theodore Herzl, whom he called a modern day Moses. "Today we are continuing Herzl's work and expanding Israel's ties to the world in an unprecedented manner. In two weeks Donald Trump will visit Israel and we will greet him like the true friend he is and we are also expecting visits from the prime ministers of India and Australia. Jerusalem has hosted leaders from all continents, and you don't always hear about it."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Jerusalem. May 4 2017
Emil Salman

Beforehand, at the meeting with his Likud party, Netanyahu also praised the election of Emmanuel Macron to the French presidency, saying "I look forward to working with him in partnership to address the shared challenges facing our democracy. One of the biggest challenges is radical Islamic terror which hits in Paris, Jerusalem and other cities. France and Israel are old allies and I'm sure out ties will only grow closer."

He also thanked German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whom he met amid tensions between Israel and Germany over Netanyahu’s refusal to meet with Germany's foreign minister because the latter refused to cancel his meeting with the anti-occupation veterans group Breaking the Silence.

Netanyahu thanked him for the manner Steinmeier conducted his visit, in what seemed to be a reference to German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel's public meeting with the left wing NGO. Steinmeier, speaking in Jerusalem Sunday, praised Israel's democracy, while also noting that groups critical of the government should not be thought of as traitors.