Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has agreed to amend the proposed bill that would require new citizens to pledge loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic State of Israel.” While the bill approved by the cabinet last week only requires non-Jews to swear loyalty upon receiving citizenship, the amended bill would require Jews who become citizens to recite the pledge, too.
The Prime Minister has asked Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman to prepare a new version of the bill that would include Jews. Ne'eman had come out in favor of this change in the cabinet meeting last Sunday, but the cabinet did not immediately accept his proposal and voted in favor of the previous version, that exempted Jews from the oath.
Jewish people gain automatic citizenship in Israel, based on the Law of Return. Israel was established as a Jewish State after nearly 2,000 years in which the Jews were stateless. Therefore, citizenship of the new state was based on Jewish identity, but eligibility for the Law of Return was not limited to those who were Jewish halakhically, as established by the Jewish religion. Judaism is defined as both a religion and nationality.
Some analysts said that Netanyahu made the decision to change the bill after the original measure came under criticism within Israel and outside it. Netanyahu's bureau denied this, however, and explained that he had favored Ne'eman's proposal from the get-go.
Thousands of Arabs and leftists marched against the original bill in Tel Aviv Saturday night and called it racist. However, not just left-wingers and Arabs opposed the bill. MK Michael Ben-Ari, who is among the Knesset's most right-wing members, also opined that Jews should be required to take the oath. The march in Tel Aviv only proved this point, he said: "Today they march against the loyalty oath and tomorrow they will march against the national anthem and call it racist."