Approval of the proposed Nationality Law in The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday drew outraged reaction from Arab and leftist leaders.
Joint (Arab) List chairman Ayman Odeh condemned it as a “declaration of war” on Arab citizens. “Discrimination has received a legal stamp. The danger in this law is that it establishes two classes of citizen — Jewish and Arab,” he said in a statement.
The law, which establishes Hebrew as the official language of Israel, and names the state of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, has been mired in controversy for several years, but now appears on its way to passage in the Knesset.
MK Avi Dichter (Likud), the author of the bill, said it was needed to counter Palestinian efforts to deny Jewish rights to Israel. “Events of recent months prove that this is a battle for the Israel’s image and national identity. The Palestinians no longer hide their goal of erasing the Jewish people’s nation-state,” he wrote.
The revised text, which now includes the phrase “Jewish and democratic,” and deletes an endorsement of settlement throughout Israel’s borders, to mollify critics, will nevertheless face an acrimonious debate in the Knesset.
Zionist Camp MK Erel Margalit, who is running for chairmanship of his party, said that the bill was “reminiscent of dark periods” in history. “The…law is an effort to erode the only democracy in the Middle East,” he said.