PV International Desk : Israel’s parliament approved a controversial piece of legislation on Thursday that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people but which critics warn sidelines minorities.
The government says the bill, passed in the early morning hours, will merely enshrine into law Israel’s existing character. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called its passage a “historic moment in the history of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel.”
“Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, which honors the individual rights of all its citizens,” he said. “I repeat this is our state. The Jewish state.”
“Lately, there are people who are trying to destabilize this and therefore destabilize the foundations of our existence and our rights,” he added. “So today we have made a law in stone. This is our country. This is our language. This is our anthem and this is our flag. Long live the state of Israel.”
Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence defined its nature as a Jewish and democratic state, a delicate balance the country has grappled to maintain for 70 years.
Opponents of the new bill say it marginalizes the country’s Arab minority of around 20 percent and also downgrades Arabic language from official to “special” standing.
The law passed with a 62-55 backing, with two members of the Knesset abstaining. The legislation, defined as a “basic law,” granting it quasi-constitutional status, will likely face a challenge at the Supreme Court.