Draft Constitution Ignores Crucial Question of Who Is a Jew

MKs divided over labeling Israel 'Jewish state' or 'state of the Jewish nation'; no mention of equality in preamble.

The draft constitution being prepared by the Knesset Constitution Committee will not include the Law of Return, in order to forestall an argument over the "who is a Jew" issue. Instead, it will include a general statement that "every Jew is entitled to immigrate to Israel."

However, the committee plans to submit a revised version of the Law of Return to the Knesset along with the proposed constitution. The proposed revision would replace the "grandchild clause," which entitles all grandchildren of Jews to immigrate, with a clause entitling anyone who belongs to a Jewish community to immigrate.

Thus far, the proposed preamble to the constitution does not include any mention of equality, since there is a major argument between religious and secular parties over the right to equality.

Another matter that is being hotly debated is the definition of the state's character. Most committee members want to define Israel as a "Jewish state," but rightist MKs are demanding that it be defined as the "state of the Jewish nation." They also want to split Israel's current definition as a "Jewish and democratic state" into two separate articles, one dealing with its Jewish character and one with its democratic character.

Committee Chairman Menachem Ben-Sasson has proposed that the state's symbol, the menorah, include the name "Israel" in both Hebrew and Arabic. Currently, the name only appears in Hebrew.

No votes have yet been taken on the preamble, nor are any expected in the next few months.

To see the draft of the preamble to Israel's constitution, click here.

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