T. Belman. This is very complex stuff. Calling Israel a democratic state handcuff’s the state and empowers the court. Instead the Knesset should craft a Bill of rights where they could specify what rights go only so far or what rights trump other rights.
The compromise in the current draft would allow the court to favour Israel’s Jewish character but would not force them to. It needs to say explicitly that when Democratic values are in conflict with Jewish values, the latter shall take precident.
I changed the title in Haaretz from “would” to “might”.
Draft is the latest proposal from Netanyahu’s governing coalition of the so-called nation-state bill that critics say would stifle democracy
A new version of a bill defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people would force the High Court of Justice to favor Israel’s Jewish character over its democratic character should the two conflict.
The draft bill, which was crafted in recent days, defines the country as “a Jewish and democratic state” but requires the court to interpret the law based on Israel being the Jewish nation-state.
Last week a ministerial committee drafting the bill considered deleting a reference to a democratic form of government. The governing coalition is having problems bridging differences over the draft of the bill, one source told Haaretz.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is pressing to have the bill approved on its first reading within two weeks,” said the source, referring to the first of three Knesset votes the bill must pass to became law. “So they will vote on a version that there is no full agreement on, and they will only try to resolve the differences in advance of a second and third reading, after the [Knesset] recess.”
Coalition Chairman David Bitan said this week he expected a preliminary vote on the bill to be held in the last week of July, before the recess.
The first section of the current draft states: “The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, where it is exercising its aspiration for self-determination based on its cultural and historical heritage.”
The draft adds: “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people. The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, and where the State of Israel has been established.”
As the final provision puts it, “The provisions of this Basic Law or any other legislation will be interpreted in light of what is provided in this section.”
Only after this provision is there is a clause referring to Israel’s democratic form of government. “This Basic Law is aimed at protecting Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people, to enshrine the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in a Basic Law, in the spirit of the principles in the Declaration of Independence.”
The revised version was largely taken from the original, controversial nation-state bill sponsored by MK Avi Dichter (Likud). It would let judges give priority to Israel’s character as a Jewish state in cases when Israel’s Jewish values conflicted with its democratic form of government.
Last week the ministerial committee deliberated between two other versions. It considered whether to have the bill state that Israel is “a Jewish state with a democratic form of government” or to eliminate any mention of democracy and suffice with a vague clause stating that Israel is “a Jewish state in the spirit of the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”
Meanwhile, no agreement has been reached on the status of the Arabic language. The draft of the bill is expected to distinguish between the status of Hebrew and Arabic, but two versions of the provision have been drafted. While Hebrew would receive the status of “state language,” one version would give Arabic “special status in the country, [with] its speakers having the right to language access to the state’s services.”
Another version would add a provision stating: “Nothing stated in this provision shall infringe on the status awarded in practice to the Arabic language before the commencement of this Basic Law.”
“We are not committed to any of the proposed versions,” said MK Amir Ohana (Likud). “But we will absolutely hear everyone and try to arrive at a version that best expresses, without apologizing or quibbling, that in the State of Israel every individual has full human rights, while national rights are possessed by only one people, the Jewish people.”
This week, Netanyahu announced that the coalition parties had agreed to set up a Knesset committee to prepare the bill for the later Knesset votes. The panel will have 16 members drawn from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and the Knesset House Committee. Ten will be members of the coalition, with six from the opposition. Ohana is expected to serve as chairman.
Netanyahu has insisted that the committee be chaired by a member of his Likud party, as a sign that the legislation is a direct initiative of the party. Still, members from other parties signed on as cosponsors of Dichter’s bill.
JPOST reports on it differently.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday for the controversial bill “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” to be legislated faster than planned.
Last week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bill proposed by MK Avi Dichter (Likud) and the Knesset voted for it in a preliminary reading. At that point, the bill was supposed to be put on hold for 60 days, while the government came up with its own version to merge with Dichter’s.
However, in Sunday’s meeting of coalition party leaders, Netanyahu called to accelerate the process and waive the waiting period.
The prime minister said the Jewish nation-state bill will continue on the private legislation path, so that it can be passed into law faster, without the government bill.
Last week, Netanyahu threw strong support behind the bill, calling for “all Zionist parties” to support it.
The legislation states that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People and includes details like the national anthem, the flag, and that Jerusalem is the capital. It also includes a controversial article stating that Hebrew is “the state’s language” and Arabic has a special status.
Netanyahu responded to critics of the bill who said it gives primacy to Jewish citizens, saying at two separate occasions that “there is no contradiction at all between this bill and equal rights for all citizens of Israel.”
On Wednesday, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh came out against the bill, saying that “no apartheid law, racist and ultra-nationalist as it can be, will erase the fact that two nations live here.
“This extreme-right-wing government is trying to light a fire of nationalist hatred here, but I still believe that there is a majority here that wants to live in peace, equality and democracy, and that majority must get up now to fight determinedly against this dangerous government,” Odeh added.