Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Israeli cabinet approves Netanyahu's bill giving national rights only to Jews

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The Israeli cabinet approved on Sunday the controversial "National Law" bill based on the versions submitted by MK Ze'ev Elkin of Likud and a nearly identical version proposed by MKs Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home, Yariv Levin of Likud and Robert Ilatov of Yisrael Beytenu, Israel's Channel 7 news reported on Monday.

The National Law aims to recognise the State of Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people," where "the right to realisation of national self-determination in Israel is exclusive to the Jewish people." The non-Jewish Arab population in Israel is about 20 per cent.

15 ministers voted in favour of the law and six opposed it, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and ministers of the Yesh Atid Party.

According to Israeli media, Netanyahu told the cabinet before the vote that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people and there are equal rights for every citizen. "But there are national rights only for the Jewish people; a flag, anthem, the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel and other national symbols."

He continued: "There are those who want democracy to take precedence over Judaism, and those who want Judaism to take precedence over democracy. In the law that I am bringing, both principles are equal and must be given equal consideration and are the same principles that appear in the Independence Scroll. I also don't understand those who call for two states for two peoples, but at the same time oppose anchoring that in law."

"The Palestinians refuse to recognise this, and there is also opposition from within – there are those who want to establish autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev, and who deny our national rights," he said, adding that: "I also don't understand those who call for two states for two peoples, but at the same time oppose anchoring that in law. They are quick to recognise a Palestinian national home, but adamantly oppose a Jewish national home."

Before the vote, the cabinet meeting witnessed heated arguments between Netanyahu on the one hand, and the leader of the Yesh Atid Party, Yair Lapid, and the leader of Hatnua Party, Tzipi Livni, on the other hand.

Lapid attacked the proposed law in its current form and said it would leave 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union as second-class citizens, describing the law as part of a campaign within the Likud Party.

Jerusalem Post reported that Livni called the bill undemocratic and suggested that Netanyahu was trying to find an excuse to break up the government.

To which Netanyahu banged his hand on the table and said: "It cannot be that Arabs can live in Jewish towns, but Jews can't live in Arab towns. A country within a country is developing."

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, the Israeli government's legal adviser, also attacked the bill as racist and anti-democratic. Nevertheless, the cabinet still approved the bill, which will be slightly amended by Netanyahu before being voted on in the Knesset.

In related news, the Guardian reported that cabinet ministers, including Netanyahu, "separately proposed stripping Palestinian attackers of their residency rights in occupied East Jerusalem in response to a wave of deadly violence".

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