Watered-down version of 'Nationality Law' passes first reading

Bill to enshrine Israel's Jewish character as Basic Law advances after clause calling on courts to consider Jewish Law removed.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

the vote on the nationality law
the vote on the nationality law
Spokesperson

A version of the Nationality Law was approved in its first reading in the Knesset Tuesday after key clauses were dropped.

The bill enshrines the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in its homeland as a unique right for the Jewish people, the symbols of the state, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the Hebrew language as the official language.

In addition, the proposal anchors Israel's connection with Diaspora Jewry and the right to preserve a heritage for all residents of Israel, regardless of religion or nationality. The bill establishes the Hebrew calendar as the state's official calendar and the commemoration of Israel's Independence Day, the Jewish holidays, and the days of remembrance in the Basic Law.

Attorney Eyal Zandberg, representing Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, explained that the Attorney General opposed a clause which would guarantee the right of small towns to maintain admission committees, thereby limiting residence to individuals of particular nationalities or religious streams.

"The section states that it is possible to harm a person only because of his national or religious affiliation," said Zandberg. "This is blatant discrimination between people who do not fit with Israel's values as Jewish and democratic."

The chairman of the joint committee, MK Amir Ohana, emphasized that the bill added that the state will not only concern the welfare of the Jewish people, but also all of its citizens in distress due to their Jewishness or citizenship.

The clause which stated the "the provisions of this Basic Law shall prevail over any legislation" was removed from the original bill, as was the section that stated that "Jewish law shall serve as a source of inspiration for the court in cases where there is no legal precedent."

In addition, the clause relating to the State of Israel as "Jewish and democratic was removed in the spirit of the principles of the Declaration of Independence" was removed. The reference to the Law of Return was removed and replaced by the declaratory clause in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, according to which the state is open to Jewish immigration and the in-gathering of the exiles.

Minister Yariv Levin, one of the initiators of the national law, said that the approval of the law constitutes "a historic step to correct the constitutional revolution that harmed the Jewish status of the State of Israel."

"I welcome the approval of the National Law in the Committee today, following tremendous efforts invested by MKs Dichter and Ohana and myself on the subject in recent months, and especially in recent days. The Nationality Law is Zionism’s flagship bill and the most important law the Knesset has dealt with. It expresses the deepest foundations of Zionism and the foundations on which the state of Israel was built, said Minister Levin.

"It will restore order, clarify the obvious and bring Israel back on track - a state that is unique from all countries in principle to one - being the nation-state of the Jewish people," Levin concluded.


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