The “Jewish State” bill, which had already generated considerable controversy in Israel, escalated into an international issue on Thursday, once again pitting Israel against the European Union.
On Thursday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuel Jofra to be summoned for a formal rebuke, after the latter reportedly lobbied with MKs to vote against the proposal.
“It is not enough that the EU finances NGOs that strive to undermine the State of Israel and finance illegal construction; it is now interfering with Israeli legislation. Apparently, they do not understand that Israel is a sovereign state,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office.
Earlier on Thursday, Jofra was quoted in the local media as saying that “the law stinks of racism; and it discriminates against various groups — particularly Arabs — and weakens the values Israel tries to uphold … and distances Israel from the accepted norms in the democratic countries.”
The contentious Clause 7 in the current draft of the bill permits town councils to maintain the character of a particular community, and bar applicants for residency from other sectors of the population.
“The vast majority of the people want to ensure the Jewish character of our state for generations,” Netanyahu said on Thursday in a defense of the bill. But, he promised, it would not harm minorities.
“In Israeli democracy, we will continue to guarantee the rights of the individual and the group; they will continue to be guaranteed; but the majority also has right; and the majority rules …
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has raised similar objections, met Thursday with Likud Ministers Yariv Levin and Tzachi Hanegbi to revise Clause 7, subject to Netanyahu’s approval, according to Ynet.