In an unusual move, President Reuven Rivlin appealed on Tuesday to the Nationality Law Committee of the Knesset not to approve the clause in the bill that would allow for the establishment of small communities for Jews only.
In his letter, the president expressed concern that section 7 (b) of the current text, which establishes that "the state may allow the community, including members of one religion or of one nationality, to maintain separate communal settlement," could harm the Jewish people, Jews worldwide, and the State of Israel.
Rivlin wondered, "In the name of the Zionist vision, are we willing to lend a hand to the discrimination and exclusion of a man or a woman on the basis of his or her origin?"
The full letter of the president as sent to the prime minister, the speaker of the Knesset and the members of Knesset:
1. A draft Basic Law: Israel - the nation-state of the Jewish people - is on your table. This proposal, by definition, deals with the most delicate constitutional principles of the State of Israel. Accordingly, significant and vital discussions are being held all the time on the sections of the law, which have undergone various changes over the years.
2. Following my conversation with the prime minister, I turn to you in an unusual step, in order to draw your attention to the wording of Section 7 (b) of the bill, which states: "The state may allow the community, including members of one religion or of one nationality, to maintain separate communal settlement."
3. The amendment to the Cooperative Societies Ordinance, known as the "Admission Committees Law", passed in the Knesset in 2011 during my tenure as speaker of the 18th Knesset. This law protects the right of small communal settlements to preserve the social and cultural fabric of the settlement, and to refuse to accept candidates for the communal settlement who harm this fabric. The law also states that the admissions committee of the community will not refuse to accept a candidate for reasons of race, religion, sex, nationality, disability, personal status, age, parenthood, sexual orientation, country of origin, or political affiliation. The law passed by the Knesset after many discussions reflected the Knesset's commitment to enable various communities to preserve their unique identity as well as to preserve the ability to realize the Zionist vision in the State of Israel, particularly in the Negev and the Galilee. This law, with all its complexity, sought to reflect the delicate balance of the components of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The constant search for, and maintenance of, this balance is the supreme commitment of the Knesset.
4. Similar to the "Acceptance Committees Law," which was adopted following the Supreme Court's ruling in the Qa'adan case, Section 7 (b) seeks to enable communities to preserve their unique identity. However, in contrast to that law, the section in the version before you today determines that it is possible to refuse to accept a candidate for the community, in fact, for any reason, including for reasons of religion and nationality.
5. I am concerned that the broad manner in which this article was formulated, without balances, is liable to harm the Jewish people, the Jews throughout the world and the State of Israel, and can even be used as a weapon by our enemies.
6. I would also like to turn our attention to the inside of Israeli society: In the name of the Zionist vision, are we willing to lend a hand to the discrimination and exclusion of a man or a woman on the basis of his or her origin? The proposed wording of Section 7 (b), which is before you for discussion, allows virtually every community, in the broadest possible way and without any limitation or balance, to establish a community without Mizrahim, without Haredim, without Druze, without LGBT. I am certain that this was not the intention of the bill's proposers, and that this is not your intention, members of the committee, members of the Knesset.
7. In view of the above, I again ask you to reexamine the implications and consequences of the proposed wording in the said section. I am certain that the Knesset will act with the necessary responsibility in relation to this Basic Law, which seeks to add a chapter to the nascent constitution of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.