A legislative proposal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people touched off another round of coalition warfare and provoked vociferous opposition from Arab and left-wing MKs on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he’s pushing the bill forward, asserting at the weekly Cabinet meeting that the move is “necessary” when Palestinians and others refuse to recognize the nation’s Jewish character.
The progress of the bill, known as the Nationality Law, encountered its first obstacle just hours later, when Justice Minister Tzipi Livni postponed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s vote on it.
Livni said she did so at the request of Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), who argued that a vote now would be premature, since there are still more proposals coming up on the issue that need to be discussed.
Peri also called the bill “dangerous.” “The explosive situation that exists in the Arab sector at the moment has already led to violent clashes and casualties. A discussion on the law at this time is irresponsible,” Peri said at the committee meeting.
The bill contains a number of contentious provisions. It reaffirms state symbols (the flag, the anthem and the menorah) which have come under attack in recent years, and endorses Hebrew as the official language of the country with Arabic only having a “special status.”
After Livni’s maneuver, Netanyahu vowed to bring the bill to a cabinet vote.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett struck back too, threatening that his Jewish Home party will not support any bills by Livni’s Movement party unless Netanyahu’s bill gets ministerial approval.
In apparent retaliation, Knesset Finance Committee chairman MK Nissim Smolianski (Jewish Home) threatened to postpone the final vote on Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s Zero VAT, his Yesh Atid party’s flagship bill.
The Balad party said in response: “The aim of those submitting the proposal is to make their racism and discrimination the law, and create two classes: equal civil officials (Jews) and less equal (Arabs).”