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Defining Israel in the Knesset

Two bills aim to make clarify Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity

Romy Zipken
June 27, 2013


Two bills have been submitted to the Knesset to define, formally, Israel’s Jewish identity and its place as a democratic state.

The first one, co-written by Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin and MK Ayelet Shaked and it says that Israel is the home of the Jewish people, and no one else, reports Haaretz.

The bill asserts that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people and that the right to national self-determination in Israel is reserved solely for Jews. The bill also states that the “Land of Israel” is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, and does not recognize it as being the homeland of any other nation.

It also maintains that Israel is a democracy that holds rights for all citizens of every religion, reports the Jewish Press.

The second bill, by MK Ruth Calderon uses language from Israel’s Declaration of Independence to define the Jewish State, reports the Times of Israel.

Calderon, a secular professor of Talmud, noted that the term “Jewish state” refers to a country where Jewish people, culture and values are paramount, not a Jewish religious state, and said that given the lack of a constitution and the fact that the Declaration of Independence is routinely consulted by judges when making rulings, it makes sense to enshrine it into law.

The bills have brought up a recurring and strong debate about Israel’s Jewish identity. The bills are also very much opposed by Arab MKs, reports YNet.

“We don’t need laws that are designed to establish the hegemony of the majority, but need to protect the minority when racism rages. The Knesset has become a racist legislation machine,” Barakeh said.

Neither bill is as controversial as a bill that was introduced by former MK Avi Dichter to the Knesset in 2011, which sought to recognize Hebrew, and not Arabic, as Israel’s only national language, reported Israel National News.

Romy Zipken is a writer and editor at Jewcy. Her Twitter feed is @RomyZipken.

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