Scrap the So-called Jewish State Law

Israel must set borders within which it has a Jewish majority and move to integrate its Arab citizens.

The only way Israel can exist as a democratic Jewish state is by being a democratic state whose citizens have equal rights, but where the majority of its population is Jewish.

Ensuring such a majority is not self-evident, but in view of the current Jewish majority of four-fifths, it is possible - provided that Israel sees this as the fundamental issue, rather than annexing territories with hundreds of thousands of Palestinian residents - as it has done in Jerusalem.

Maintaining the majority in a democracy cannot be done by means of discriminatory legislation. The Law of Return, although intended for Jews, does not discriminate among the state's citizens. It is intended for those who are not citizens.

However, the amendment to the Citizenship Law - which prevents Israelis from forming a family in Israel with Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza - is discriminatory. This is because it is only Arab Israelis who are expected to ask to form such a family. The state did not dare say the reason for such a law is the need to ensure a Jewish majority, for fear it would be disqualified by the Supreme Court. Instead, the state argued that the reason for the law was security, which the High Court of Justice accepted by a majority vote.

Prof. Ruth Gavison refused to take part in this pretense. She justified the law, citing the need to ensure a Jewish majority, even at the expense of infringing on democracy and equal rights. Prof. Gavison has now been asked by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to draft a proposal for a constitutional arrangement dealing with the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (the so-called "Basic Law: Jewish nation state") that the coalition government partners agreed to enact, and that should combine and balance these two values of Jewish and democratic.

The first proposal for such Basic Law, sponsored in the previous Knesset by MK Avi Dichter (Kadima), showed such legislation was not possible without infringing on the equality before the law. So does the current proposal, sponsored by MK Yariv Levin (Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi).

But this is the law's intention: to subject the state's democratic values to its being "Jewish". The legislators are conspiring against the Arab minority, a fifth of the state's population, but not only against it. The pressure for this legislation must be seen as preparation for a much larger Palestinian population in Israel, after it annexes the West Bank territories. This is what the proposers want.

There is no need for a new Jewish nation state law that compromises equality and leads Israel towards apartheid. The right direction for Israel to take is clear, and the prime minister understands it. Israel must set borders within which it has a Jewish majority and move to integrate its Arab citizens. The idea of a Jewish state law, in any possible version, works in the opposite direction and must be scrapped.