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Israel PM looking to enshrine 'Jewish state' in law
Published Thursday 01/05/2014 (updated) 04/05/2014 14:25
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JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel will seek to anchor its status as the national homeland of the Jewish people in law, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

"One of my main missions as prime minister of Israel is to bolster the status of the State of Israel as the national state of our people," Netanyahu said in a speech in Tel Aviv, a transcript of which was provided by his office.

"To this end, it is my intention to submit a basic law to the Knesset (parliament) that would provide a constitutional anchor for Israel's status as the national state of the Jewish people."

Netanyahu has made recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a key demand in the crisis-hit peace talks with the PLO, which formally drew to a close on Tuesday.

The PLO recognized Israel's right to exist in 1988 and say accepting Israel as a Jewish state would be tantamount to accepting the Nakba, or "catastrophe", of 1948, in which around 760,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Jewish militias.

The chairman of Netanyahu's coalition Yariv Levin congratulated Netanyahu for his "historic decision, that will bring Israel back to a Zionist course after years of ongoing legal eroding of the fundamental principles, upon which the state was founded."

Previous attempts failed

"The prime minister has instructed me to push forward with the legislation without delay, as a continuation of the original bill I initiated," said Levin, a hardline member of Netanyahu's Likud party.

In 2011 Avi Dichter, a member of the Kadima party, attempted to pass such a law, but it was shot down by then-Kadima head Tzipi Livni. In 2013, Levin brought forth a mellowed version of a similar bill, which also was not advanced.

Netanyahu's Thursday declaration was met with fierce opposition from the very coalition minister in charge of legislation, Justice Minister Livni, who vowed she would not enable such a law.

"Livni will continue to defend democracy, she has objected past initiatives that come at the account of democratic values in favor of 'Jewish' ones, and will do so even if the one proposing (the law) is prime minister," her spokeswoman Mia Bengel wrote on Twitter.

Menachem Hofnung, a professor of political science at the Hebrew university, said such a proposal would probably not have a majority in the current cabinet.

He also said such a law was "not necessary".

"There are already basic laws which state that Israel is Jewish and democratic," he said. "So I'm not sure what is the effect of another law, besides putting another obstacle to the peace process."

Palestinian officials have repeatedly said that recognizing the concept of Israel as a "Jewish state" is unnecessary and threatens the rights of nearly 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who remained in their homes during the displacement of the majority of the Palestinian population.

Earlier this year, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi said that Israel wants to "create a narrative that denies the Palestinian presence, rights, and continuity on the historic Palestinian lands."

A "Jewish state" recognition would exempt Israel from its responsibility toward the Palestinian refugees who were forcibly displaced from their homes in 1948, she added.

The right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land is enshrined in article 11 of UN resolution 194.

Israel has never officially recognized the right of a Palestinian state to exist.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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1 ) jesse / usa
01/05/2014 19:51
I am confused. aren't there laws based on sharia law in muslim countries? doesn't hamas and the PA consider themselves to be in charge of MUSLIM people and countries? why can Israel do the same thing? oh right, cause Israel is the only country that freely accepts muslims and jews

2 ) Carlos / usa
01/05/2014 19:57
israel already claims it is a Jewish state. Netanyahoo is just being redundant! That is why the israeli Palestinian citizens are evicted, murdered, starved, held without charge, exiled. He is being a cheerleader for incitement and hatred of the native population.

3 ) Palestinian / Palestine
01/05/2014 20:16
#1 " cause Israel is the only country that freely accepts muslims and jews" Israel "accepts" non-Jews after Nakba (Holocaust) of Palestine!

4 ) mohamed / somalia
01/05/2014 21:07
it is like news south africa.

5 ) JoeFattal / USA
02/05/2014 00:51
Netanyahu can call his State anything he wants. But where is his State?. Where does it begin and where does it end. If he has the answer which I doubt he has than he can't call it anything. And as he knows he also have Palestinians there and they exceed the Jewish population. So Netanyahu have to settle the main issue, where are his boundaries. A Jewish State in reality is good on paper as the State of Israel unless boundaries are implemented to seperate both Palestinains and Israelis.

6 ) NOT A / GOOD GUY
02/05/2014 04:16
Jail this TERRORIST !!!.

7 ) Lynx / Palestine
02/05/2014 09:21
What an ape...A nation belongs to all its citizens. Of course, Zionism is racist and fascist in this regard, it envisaged building and defining a state based on cult and ideological affiliations, rather than loyalty and protection of inhabitants of the land. This shouldn't come as a surprise...the "jewish state" card is all what this ape has left, before his coalition crumbles.

8 ) Rafael / USA
02/05/2014 22:06
“The State of Israel will always preserve full personal and civil equality for all its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, in a Jewish and democratic state,” said Netanyahu. By not reporting this writer is simply skewing what was said. The language mentions personal rights for all citizens – as opposed to national rights – making it clear that only the Jewish People have the right to statehood in the Land of Israel

9 ) Maureen / Australia
02/05/2014 22:26
The push by Netanyahu & Co for Israel to become known as the 'Jewish state' is just another usurper ploy! Similar to their usurping of Holocaust re Holocaust museums. Very, very pathetic.

10 ) JoeFattal / USA
03/05/2014 00:05
@8) There is an old saying in New York that says "You don't have to be Jewish to eat rye bread". Well you don't have to be a Jew to live in Israel. Because a Jew can be an Israelite but not all Israelites are Jews. But he can't create a Jewish State and be a democratic State at the same time. It will never work. And I doubt it will pass.

11 ) Robert / US
03/05/2014 00:14
I forgive you Jewish state, now please , please recognize the Palestinian state and we all can live in peace , id love t our come celebrate both cultures. Please .

12 ) JoeFattal / USA
03/05/2014 01:47
@8) A "Jewish Democratic State" as said by Netanyahu is a Theocracy State where religion has an effect on the laws and rules. And that is the delimma that Israel has where religion and state conflict. And also that is the reason why peace talks are been derailed. As we know that every Jew can be an Israelite but not every Israelite is a Jew. So how can Netanyahu call it a Jewish State govern by its divine law and expect all non-Jews to agree with it. Not inluding the Palestinians.

13 ) Tom / USA
03/05/2014 02:41
Non Palestinians under Israeli rule are a minority already. Bibi gun's trying to make a law that says that a minority will rule forever. This hobby horse has turned out to be no more than a broom.

14 ) Mel / USA
03/05/2014 19:14
If"King Bibi"declares Israel(w/out official borders & still being a military occupier)a"Jewish State",all USG/EU money(to a theocratic Israel)is ABSOLUTELY obliged to cease!All US monies/loan guarantees sent for the last 1/2 century to OCCUPIER Israel,are already ILLEGAL(Symington Amend.,Geneva Cons). US pluralistic democracy &EU pluralistic social-democracy,can't PATRON an apartheid,self-declared Israeli ethno-theocracy!That's akin to patroning the Nazi,white-Protestant-only,occupation of WW2.

15 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
03/05/2014 23:41
I dunno, Joe...aren't you "One nation under God" where that "god" is JC? They just left his name a little nebulous in the wording. And how can your nation be governed given that the senate and congress are almost 99.9% colonist settlers on occupied native American (and stolen) lands?

16 ) Mel / USA
04/05/2014 00:00
Israel! Under Zionism?
"it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah"(Leonard Cohen).
What a waste Israel,what a criminal waste,when you had such a chance!

17 ) Roberta Thomas / Cook Islands
04/05/2014 05:08
It appears to be a personal objective that is stated. Maybe in the future, there might be an understanding of cultures. - The proposed bill was not well received by some in the Knesset.

18 ) ian / australia (1)
06/05/2014 15:17
#15 "I dunno, Joe...aren't you "One nation under God" where that "god" is JC?" Not exactly, Brian. The "God" in the pledge of allegiance is the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who incarnated Himself AS Jesus, fully human AND fully divine and, in human form, died for OUR sins in East Jerusalem. (Some say in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre while others say the bus station off Sultan Suleiman Street). He also revised the Covenant, nullifying the one with Abraham and replacing it with a SECOND one

19 ) ian / australia (2)
06/05/2014 15:19
(contd.) with ALL people, not just the seed of Jacob, which, after all the smiting and killing and saving alive "nothing that breatheth", was a nice change of pace. America also has separation of church and state so the rights, as citizens, of people who don't believe in the God the nation is "under" are not jeopardised one iota and they're in NO danger of being treated as lesser citizens or aliens in their own country which I somehow don't think is PRECISELY what Bibi has in mind.
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