Archive

Israel OKs Jewish homeland legislation | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Israel OKs Jewish homeland legislation

The Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM — Israel’s cabinet on Sunday approved legislation defining Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people — a measure critics decried as racist and a threat to democracy.

At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the drafting of legislation that would allow the revocation of Jerusalem residency for Palestinians who carry out terrorist attacks, and that of their families as well.

Taken together, the actions are likely to increase tensions between Israel and its Arab citizens — who make up about 20 percent of the population — and between Israeli authorities and the 300,000 Palestinians who live in parts of east Jerusalem that have been in effect annexed by Israel. Most of them have residency rights but not citizenship.

Israel has been on edge since attacks by Palestinians that have killed 11 people since Oct. 22, including five who were slain last week in a Jerusalem synagogue.

The homeland measure, if finalized by the Knesset, or parliament, would become part of Israel’s “basic law,” legislation anchoring key principles and forming a de facto constitution.

Over the past several years, lawmakers have considered several versions of the bill, some more stringent than others, but all drawing fierce objections from liberal politicians, legal experts, Arab citizens and Palestinians.

Since taking office in 2009, Netanyahu has demanded that Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jews as part of any permanent peace agreement. The cabinet vote approved elements of two separate versions drafted by coalition lawmakers and supported by the prime minister.

“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,” Netanyahu said. “In the principles of the law that I will submit today, both of these values are equal and both must be considered to the same degree.”

One version of the bill proposes that Hebrew will be Israel’s only official language and grants Arabic an unspecified “special status.” Arabic has been an official language alongside Hebrew since the days of the British Mandate over Palestine.

Netanyahu, whose coalition threatened to splinter over the homeland measure, said the law was necessary to counter those challenging Israel from within and without. Finance Minister Yair Lapid, however, suggested the tough measures were spurred by upcoming leadership primaries for the prime minister’s Likud faction.

Lapid told Israeli media of his condolence call to the family of Zidan Seif, a Druze police officer killed last week while fighting the two Palestinian synagogue assailants.

“What shall we tell his family now, that he was rendered a second-class citizen because Likud has primaries?” he asked sarcastically.

Even before legislation on revoking Jerusalem residency rights of Palestinian attackers and their families, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan on Sunday stripped the residency of Mahmoud Nadi, a Palestinian permanent resident of Israel who drove a suicide bomber to Tel Aviv in 2001 for an attack that killed 21 Israelis.


TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.