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Israeli Conservatives Table Legislation to Define Israel as “Jewish State”

© AP Photo / Ariel SchalitIsrael's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. - Sputnik International
The Israeli government is to meet on Sunday and discuss a controversial bill to define Israel in law as a “Jewish State.”

MOSCOW, November 15 (Sputnik) — The Israeli government is to discuss a proposal to change the country’s Basic Laws in order to define it as a “Jewish State,” in the latest and most radical incarnation of such a bill.

According to the Times of Israel, “The version to be discussed by ministers Sunday also reportedly defines Israel’s democracy as subservient to its Jewish character and demotes Arabic from its official language status.”

Such legislation has been repeatedly pushed on the political agenda by the right-wing Likud party. The Times reports that the proposal is unlikely to be passed, and “would likely be buried by appeals and legal objections.” Israel’s Basic Laws are in practice used by courts as the country’s constitution.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister and leader of Likud, previously tried to advance such a law in May, when he told the Haaretz newspaper, “I see it as one of my basic missions as prime minister to fortify the state of Israel as the nation-state of our people, " and that “there are those…who seek to appeal the historical, legal and moral justification for the existence of the state of Israel as the nation-state of our people.”

The Jerusalem Post identified the motivation for the May bill in the breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian talks in April, after leading Palestinian political party Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement with Hamas. The proposal was then criticized by opposition parties and the Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who said, “As long as I am in the government, a law will not pass that puts the national element over the democratic. I won’t give up on either side of the equation.”

The Times of Israel writes that the current legislation to be discussed “defines Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people” and also encourages the use of Jewish law, as well as declaring Hebrew the only official language and redefining Arabic as a language with “special status”. It also “dictates that the state will encourage Jewish settlement within its borders but is not obligated to ensure construction and housing for the country’s other peoples.”

A similar bill was originally introduced in 2011 by Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin of the Likud party, who is responsible for placing again it on the agenda of the country’s Ministerial Committee.

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