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Bill to Make Hebrew Sole Official Language

Lawmakers have proposed a bill defining Hebrew the sole official language and define Israel as "the national home of the Jewish people."
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 8/5/2011, 4:37 PM

Lawmakers submitted a draft law that would establish Hebrew as Israel's only official language on Wednesday.

Arabic and English are currently considered official languages in Israel. The draft law would, however, “accord Arabic special status” and affirm the right of Arabic speakers to linguistic access to the state’s services.

Lawmakers of both the ruling coalition and opposition parties submitted the draft law, which is said to have broad support Wednesday. Knesset sources say they expect the bill to pass during the winter session.

The draft law would change the accepted definition of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state” and would make democratic rule subservient to the state’s definition as "the national home for the Jewish people."

"With the Basic Law we can finally denote Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and not need the Palestinians' favors and recognition of us as a Jewish state," MK Avi Dichter (Kadima ), who helped draft the bill, said.

According to Dichter, the law "will enable us to deal with the aspirations of radicals from both sides of the political spectrum to establish a binational state here."

This would mean that whenever members of the Knesset are facing an issue without a "solution in legislation," lawmakers would be asked to legislate in the spirit of Jewish tradition and interests.

Dichter added "the bill fixes an existing situation. The official languages in Israel were determined by the British in 1922 - French, Arabic and Hebrew, in that order. Hebrew is defined as superior to Arabic and as the state's official language. If Arabic were official, Israel would define itself as a bilingual state and every restaurant or newspaper would have to provide an Arabic version as well."

Co-sponsor MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) dismissed criticism that the bill would hurt Israel's international standing.

"If we were talking about the world in which the United Nations equates Zionism with racism, there might be a problem. But today the world is ready to accept this," Elkin said.

MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu ) also sponsored the bill.