Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Netanyahu wants to make loyalty oath for new Israeli citizens also compulsory for Jews

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants to include Jews in a bill that requires people taking Israeli citizenship to swear loyalty to the country as a Jewish state. The bill has still to be passed by the Knesset.
.Mr Netanyahu's office said on Monday that he had instructed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to prepare a draft bill that would also require Jews to pledge allegiance to Israel 'as a Jewish and democratic state'.
The original proposal to require some citizens - mainly Israeli Arabs - to swear allegiance to a Jewish state has proved deeply divisive within Israeli society, and on Saturday thousands protested against the bill in Tel Aviv. Israeli media reported last week that all five ministers from the left-leaning Labour party voted against the proposal, as did three cabinet members of Netanyahu's own Likud. It had been welcomed by right-wing ministers in the coalition cabinet, including ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The bill was meant to be a trade off. Netanyahu decided to support it in order to buy the support of Lieberman for a building freeze of 60 days in the West Bank settlements. 
The law has angered Israel's Arab minority. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a news demand that Netanyahu  is making as part of an eventual peace deal with the Palestinians. The PA, however, reject it, as the Palestinians have already  recognised Israel as a state. They argue that recognizing it as a 'Jewish' state will prejudice the rights of the non-Jewish minorities and preclude a deal on the Right of Return of the refugees of 1948.
The fact that Netanyahu now wants to make it also compulsory  for Jews to take the oath may seem to take away some of its racist character. But that is only a difference in appearance, as the demand remains no less discriminatory for the spouses of Israeli Palestinians from Jordan or the West Bank who want to become Israeli citizens, or for Arabs in general. Also some haredi (strictly orthodox Jewish) circles have a problem with the new requirement, because they don't recognoze a Jewish state that is not ruled according to Jewish (halakhic) law. And, I may add, Jewish people like myself who don't agree with the qualification 'Jewish and democratic state' will of course have a problem with their conscience as well.

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