“The ethical and moral strength of the State of Israel rests on the delicate and precise balance conceived by our founding fathers,” Zionist Union MK argues • MK Avi Dichter: Bill will not hurt Arab minority, any other interpretation is completely wrong.
The Knesset | Photo credit: Reuters
The controversial nation-state bill drew harsh criticism over the weekend, following an Israel Hayom report detailing several disputed revisions to its language, presented following pressure by the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties and the national-religious Habayit Hayehudi party.
The legislative proposal’s new draft defines Israel as a “Jewish state with a democratic regime” rather than a “Jewish and democratic state.” Under the new provisions, the state would be required to preserve the Jewish character of the state and protect sacred Jewish sites according to Jewish tradition. Once enacted, the bill will be one of Israel’s basic laws, which have been recognized by the courts as a de facto constitution.
Zionist Union MK Yossi Yonah lambasted the bill, arguing that “the ethical and moral strength of the State of Israel rests on the delicate and precise balance conceived by our founding fathers. The emerging nation-state bill will hurt this balance and will threaten our moral legitimacy around the world. For our own sake, it is best for this bill to be shelved.”
The office of Likud MK Avi Dichter, who introduced the bill, released a statement saying that “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People will be put to vote in the current Knesset session.”
The statement explained that “the debate over the word ‘democracy’ is between the phrases ‘Jewish and democratic state’ and ‘Jewish state with a democratic regime.’ An additional debate will deal with the question of language: Whether to write ‘Hebrew is the language of the state’ and ‘the Arabic language has a special status in Israel’ as is written now, or that the bill is ‘without prejudice to the de facto status of Arabic before the bill takes effect.’ The nation bill will not hurt the Arab minority, and any other interpretation is completely wrong.”
Dichter’s office also said that “MK Dichter’s basic law proposal will be presented for a its first [parliamentary] reading over the coming weeks with the support of the government, which did not submit its own bill proposal.”
Another point of contention in the bill states that “the land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people.” A provision stipulating the land of Israel is “where the State of Israel was established” was taken out as a result of pressure by the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Meanwhile, the Likud and Habayit Hayehudi are at odds over which party should be credited for the legislative proposal.
The Likud claims that Habayit Hayehudi is trying usurp the efforts to pass the bill and take credit for the move. Habayit Hayehudi has demanded the bill be discussed by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Habayit Hayehudi, while the Likud wants the Knesset House Committee, chaired by Likud lawmaker Yoav Kisch, to debate the bill.
Sources familiar with the issue said the Likud is expected to promote the nation-state bill, and in exchange Habayit Hayehudi will claim credit for the Jerusalem bill, which stipulates that a special, 80-MK majority vote would be required to enact any territorial concessions in the capital. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is expected to debate the Jerusalem bill later this week.