Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu faced raucus opposition in the Knesset on Wednesday evening as he addressed the plenum on the contentious nationality law.
Knesset members were called to order repeatedly, and speaker Yuli Edelstein ordered several unruly MKs to leave the plenum. Netanyahu had to shout to be heard over the shouting of those who don’t accept his argument that the Jewish character of the state needs to be enshrined in the Basic Law at a time when there were those “challenging and seeking to undermine the rights of the Jewish people in Israel from abroad and from within.”
Netanyahu said that he could understand how Hamas would oppose the bill, because they don’t recognize the right of the Jews to their own state. But he professed to be baffled as to why “his friends” within Israel were against the bill. The prime minister’s appearance was obligatory, after MKs garnered the required 40 signatures to call him to the plenum.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor), who spoke after Netanyahu, called on him to resign, an almost daily ritual these days.
“Only a prime minister lacking self-confidence needs a Jewish state bill. You talk more and more and more about nationality in order to avoid addressing the inability of the public to afford buying a house,” Herzog said.
Meanwhile, in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron defended Israeli democracy in his own face-off with parliament during the “Prime Minister’s Questions” period.
Responding to anti-Israel Labor MP Gerald Kaufman, who called upon the Conservative PM to “condemn” the bill, Cameron fired back:
“What I’d say to the right honorable gentleman is this: one of the reasonsI am such a strong supporter of Israel is that it is a country that has given rights and democracy to its people and it’s very important that that continues.
“When you look across the region and you look at those indexes of freedom you see that Israel is one of the few countries that actually ticks the boxes in terms of freedom,” he pointed out, while stressing that “it’s very important it continues to do so.”
Media coverage has fostered a negative impression of the proposed legislation. Britain’s The Times ran a front page story headlined: “Israel set to make Arabs ‘second-class citizens”— prompting complaints from some media watchdogs.