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      'Israel Must be Jewish First, Democratic Second'

      MK David Rotem says Israel must first be a Jewish state and then a democracy. Warns justice system discriminates against Jews in Judea and Samaria.
      By Yehudah Lev Kay
      First Publish: 6/14/2009, 12:21 PM

      (file)

      Member of Knesset David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu party) says Israel must first be a Jewish state, and only afterwards a democracy. Rotem, a religious Jew who lives in Efrat, also claims the justice system discriminates against Jews in Judea and Samaria.

      “The State of Israel is a Jewish State whose form of government is democratic,” Rotem said in the June issue of the Israeli legal magazine Praklitim. “I want to keep Israel a Jewish State, and if that contradicts democracy, then democracy comes second, period.”

      The MK, who is a lawyer by training, has already authored two controversial bills. His Nakba measure proposes that Israeli Arabs be forbidden from commemorating Israel’s Independence Day by mourning, as many do.

      “Would someone dare celebrate the Fourth of July as a day of mourning in the U.S.?” Rotem asks. “Maybe the Native Americans? I’m willing to bet if they did Guantanamo would be working overtime.”

      Rotem has also authored the Loyalty bill, proposing that all Israeli citizens sign a declaration of their loyalty to the Jewish State. “Someone who wants to be a partner in this country has to accept certain basic principles,” he explains.

      The Justice System Discriminates Against Jews in Judea and Samaria
      “There’s no doubt that the fact I’m a ‘settler’ will be influential,” Rotem says. “I want to deal with the fact that the justice system has gone out of control with regard to Jewish ‘settlements’ in Judea and Samaria.”

      “Check how many Jewish houses were destroyed in the last five years and how many Arab houses were destroyed,” Rotem points out. “When the court system considers a Jewish home, it immediately issues an order to halt construction. When it considers Arab homes, it turns the other way.

      “I once tried an exercise,” the MK claims. “I took a court appeal against Jewish homes and copied it word for word except that I inserted the names [of illegal Arab construction]. In the case of the Jewish homes, the court ruled against – in the case of the Arab homes, nothing happened.”

      Rotem explains that the government is well aware of massive illegal Arab construction in the Galilee, Negev, Judea and Samaria, and says its focus on Jewish construction is “discrimination”. He says Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s claim that he is only maintaining the rule of law by knocking down unauthorized Jewish outposts is "hypocritical".

      Looking to Change the System
      Rotem is only in his second term in the Knesset, but he is seen as someone who has gained great power in a short amount of time. He currently heads the influential Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and was elected less than a week ago to serve on the council which selects future Supreme Court Justices.

      “The justice system needs to be rebuilt,” Rotem maintains. “We can’t hide from the fact that the system is collapsing.” Rotem sees his mission as not just political, but sacred. “My agenda is for the State of Israel to be a religious value, and I plan on protecting it just like I protect my prayer shawl and phylacteries,” he says. “I will appoint judges who will be good for the State of Israel.”