On Monday, a preliminary Knesset vote on a proposed bill intended to solidify the Jewish character of Israel was delayed a week, giving Knesset and Netanyahu cabinet members more time to mull over the controversial legislation. The cabinet has already voted 14-6 to approve the measure, but Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni have said they do not support the bill and plan to vote against it.
While a final draft has yet not been submitted, indications are it will include measures that reinforce “Hatikvah” as the national anthem, promote the Hebrew language and permit legislation to be inspired from traditional Jewish law. Netanyahu will likely temper some other more controversial sections before the vote.
In response to criticism against the legislation, Netanyahu has said that the proposal will not fundamentally change how Israel operates; the Jewish and democratic aspects of Israeli society will still be preserved.
“There are those who would like the democratic to prevail over the Jewish and there are those who would like the Jewish to prevail over the democratic…. both of these values are equal and both must be considered to the same degree.”
Nevertheless, he also drew a distinction between equal rights for all citizens and “national rights only for the Jewish people; a flag, anthem, the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel, and other national symbols.”
Both the ADL and the Obama administration expressed reservations about the proposal. U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke reserved comment until after the vote, but said that the administration expects “final legislation to continue Israel’s commitment to democratic principles.” In a press release, the ADL called the measure “well-meaning but unnecessary.”
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