The Israeli cabinet approved an amendment Oct. 10 to the country’s citizenship law that would require those seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” and promise “to honor the laws of the state.” The amendment was approved by a vote of 22-8, and will be entered into law if it is approved by a majority in the Knesset and passes muster with the Supreme Court.
At the outset of the discussion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support and emphasized the importance of equal rights in a democratic state:
The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People and is a democratic state in which all its citizens—Jewish and non-Jewish—enjoy fully equal rights. The combination of these two lofty values expresses the foundation of our national life and anyone who would like to join us needs to recognize this… Where else in the Middle East can Jews and non-Jews live safely with fully equal rights other than in Israel? Democracy and equal civil rights for all citizens, Jews and Arabs, are the soul of Israel.
Arab politicians charge the amendment is a tool to undermine the rights of the country’s Arab minority. Critics also state the amendment has increased tension with the Palestinians, who see the new wording as an effective renunciation of Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return and call the oath undemocratic.
[The Israeli left has voiced opposition to the bill, even though the Labor Party is part of the ruling coalition. “There is a whiff of fascism on the margins of Israeli society,” said Isaac Herzog, the social affairs minister, who belongs to Labor.] Labor leaders have asserted the amendment is a payoff for support to extend a settlement building ban in the West Bank.
The Cabinet rejected a proposal to include language declaring allegiance to a “Jewish, Zionist and democratic” Israel in 2009.
From Jurist, Oct. 10. Used with permission.
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