The Knesset approved initially on Wednesday the Nationality Law proposed by MK Avi Dichter (Likud). The law passed its initial reading by a majority of 48 to 41 and will be transferred to the law committee to be drafted for its first reading.
The law legislates Israel's status as the national home of the Jewish people and emphasizes that Hebrew is the official language of the state and has a "special status". The law also states that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
During a stormy Knesset session a number of Knesset members from the Joint Arab List were removed from the plenum. MK Jamal Zahalka angrily tore up the law and was removed from the plenum after calling Dichter a "fascist and racist."
Dichter claimed that the present version of the law is identical to a previous one and added that the law does not harm minorities and "allows every person in Israel, without distinction of religion or nationality, to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity...the state will preserve and protect the holy places of all religions and ensure freedom of access to them."
MK Zehava Galon (Meretz) fumed during the course of the session and said that "Israel is the national state of the Jewish nation and of all of its citizens."
MK Masoud Ghanayim (Joint Arab List) addressed the prime minister and asked "why do we need more than the declaration of independence which also states that Israel is a Jewish state?
"It hasn't yet been decided who is a Jew, so how can you legislate a law for a Jewish state?"
Ghanaim said that the law is therefore designed to "harm" the rights of the Arabs.