Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pressing his coalition partners to honor his wishes and pass the nation-state bill through its final votes next week, before the Knesset begins its summer recess. “This law is very important to me,” he told the leaders of the coalition parties.
The purpose of the bill, according to its authors and supporters, is to serve as Israel’s identity card. But Israel already has an identity card — the Declaration of Independence. Is it past its expiration date?
Judging by the debate both inside and outside the Knesset on the proposed Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, it’s clear the bill is anything but an attempt to rejuvenate Israel’s identity card. On the contrary, it’s an attempt to replace it, to undermine the Declaration of Independence and to erase the state’s founding principles, beginning with the principle of equal rights for all citizens. What could be more emblematic of this than the fact that a commitment to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which appeared in previous versions of the bill, was removed because it was controversial?
Criticism of the bill has focused on a provision that would allow the establishment of communities for Jews only. Both President Reuven Rivlin and former Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky have objected strenuously to this provision. But what does the president know about democracy, and what does a former prisoner of Zion know about discrimination against minorities?
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Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon made it clear that the bill raises “serious difficulties with regard to the fundamental principles of the system,” adding that he has not seen its equivalent in the constitution of any other nation. But why should it have any parallels in the democratic world? The nation-state bill spits in the face of the democratic system and blatantly undermines the principle of equality.
This is a bill that was drawn up by a tyrannical majority that sees itself as a persecuted minority in its own land and believes that the Jewish majority, rather than the Arab minority, needs special constitutional protection. This is a bill that is being promoted by a dangerous, racist government which is plotting to annex the occupied territories without granting equal rights to its Palestinian residents — a government in which the motto of many of its members is “maximum territory, minimum Arabs.”
If this is truly the new Israeli identity card, it should be torn up in protest.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.