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CMEP Bulletin: Debate over Law to Define Israel as Jewish State

Written by Churches for Middle East Peace
November 27, 2014

Sunday Israel’s Cabinet approved a bill proposing a new basic law entitled, “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People.” This nation-state law, if passed by parliament, would become one of the country’s Basic Laws which form the foundation for Israeli legal systems in absence of a constitution. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people [and] a country that anchors personal equal rights for each of its citizens” during a meeting Tuesday. US State Department said, “Israel is a Jewish and democratic state in which all citizens should enjoy equal rights.” 

While the nation-state law would “affirm” the personal rights of all citizens, collective rights, including the right to language and culture, would only include Jews. Approximately 21% of Israeli citizens are not Jewish. According to some this bill in its current form denies full rights to minorities and causes others to question whether Israel would still be able to call itself a democracy. Israeli President Rivlin said Tuesday he opposed the bill and that “the framers of the Declaration of Independence ‘in their great wisdom, insist that the Arab public in Israel not feel like the Jews felt in the Diaspora.’”

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