Netanyahu: Jewish People Have National Right to Israel – This Will Be Enshrined in Law

Earlier, Economy Minister Bennett vowed that if bill doesn't pass at an upcoming vote on Sunday, the coalition's days are numbered.

Tomer Appelbaum

On a day filled with rumors of an early election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Monday to ensure that the controversial "nation-state" bill is approved when it comes to a vote on Sunday. The bill would enshrine in law the definition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Speaking at a meeting of his Likud Knesset faction, Netanyahu said he would make sure the bill passes, as a response to "all those who doubt the right of the Jews to a nation-state of their own.

"I will insist that it [the bill] passes. The Jewish people have a national right to the state of Israel. This issue is not enshrined in law, not in basic law," he told the faction meeting. Israel's basic laws have a constitutional function.  

The bill hit a hurdle Sunday, when Justice Minister Tzipi Livni scuttled a vote on it that was due to take place at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, postponing the debate until next Sunday. Her move, supported by Finance Minister Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party, undermined Netanyahu's efforts to advance the bill and angered right-wing ministers.

On Monday morning, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett upped the rhetoric, too, saying the coalition would fall apart should the "nation-state" bill fail to pass next Sunday.

"When we joined the government, we demanded and signed an agreement that said they would pass a nation-state law. Yesterday, one of the sides pushed in a one-sided way. The nation-state law will pass this coming Sunday, and if it doesn't there will be no coalition – because everything will fall apart," he said.

Later on, meanwhile, Netanyahu scheduled – and then canceled – a strategic meeting with senior Likud officials on the early election that is looming on the horizon for the fragile coalition.  

One of the people invited to Netanyahu's meeting told Haaretz, "Netanyahu's meeting was meant to deal with a putsch Lapid was trying to do to the prime minister, and with ways to block it."

According to this source, "The chances that Netanyahu will decide on going to an early election at this stage are low. The objective is to raise the awareness we have, in order to understand where Lapid stands at the moment. We really aren't able to understand Lapid's behavior."