Knesset plenum
Knesset plenumMiriam Alster/Flash 90

The Knesset approved the Nationality Law in its second and third readings on Wednesday night.

62 MKs voted in favor of the legislation, 55 voted against and two abstained.

The Nationality Law aims to codify Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people into Israel’s Basic Laws and establishes Hebrew as its sole official language while giving Arabic special standing.

The law declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the approval of the law and said, "This is a defining moment in the history of Zionism and the State of Israel. We have established in law the basic principle of our existence. Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people."

Immediately after the legislation was approved, many MKs from the Joint List got up and tore up the bill. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein had them removed from the plenum.

Edelstein welcomed the approval of the Nationality Law, writing on Twitter, "History in the Knesset plenum. We have approved a Basic Law that guarantees Israel's status as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Our national anthem, flag and right to settle in this land are guaranteed for generations to come! Well done to all my friends who worked to bring one of the most important laws ever passed by the Knesset."

MK Avi Dichter (Likud), who initiated the Nationality Law, said after the approval of the law: "It's over! Today in the Knesset we concluded the work of Herzl and Ben-Gurion. This is a historic moment that will be remembered for many years to come. Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people - in a Basic Law.”

Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said, "Today we made history. The Nationality Law was finally approved by the Knesset in its second and third readings despite the shouts and riots of MKs from the Arab list. The law has come a long way since I initiated it with MK Avi Dichter two terms ago. As of today, the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is protected at the level of a Basic Law in the State of Israel. The tenacity and determination has paid off."

MK Motti Yogev (Jewish Home) wrote on Twitter: "I welcome the approval of the Nationality Law. The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, a state that respects the individual rights of all its citizens, and yet is the state of the Jewish people. Long live the state of Israel.”

"As big as the opposition is to the Nationality Law, its importance is clear to every Jew and every person in the world," he added.

MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) reacted to the approval of the law and wrote on Twitter, "It's a sad moment when the Knesset of Israel approves a law called the 'Nationality Law' that has no equality, no democracy, and half of its members vote against it. All for the good of Binyamin Netanyahu and to the detriment of the State of Israel."

Meretz chairwoman MK Tamar Zandberg said of the Nationality Law: "A shameful and painful night. Instead of a festive moment in broad agreement, a basic contaminated law was passed, which is entirely a political maneuver between Bibi and Bennett. According to this law, Zionism is not a national movement that built a home for a persecuted people, but a forceful nationalism that humiliates the minority and establishes racial superiority."

MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, said in response to the Nationality Law: "Separation, discrimination and racism are now enshrined in law. This is the law of Jewish superiority that excludes more than 20 percent of the population. This is a law that is entirely intended to defy, divide, disparage and continue the incitement of the Netanyahu government. Three years into its term, the government has lost all shame and dignity, it exposes its hypocrisy and proves that the word democracy is not worthy of even being written as far as it is concerned.”

Odeh added, "This is a law that goes against the Arab citizens, and even more so against democracy. It is easy to incite and persecute, but this is the time for all the democrats who live here together, Arabs and Jews, to unite against nationalism and racism and to put forward a different voice of equality and peace."

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, one of the initiators of the Nationality Law, said in a speech before the vote, "This is a historic day and a formative day. The Nationality Law strengthens the identity and the heritage and all the values thanks to which Israel exists”.

“I want to appeal once again to my friends in the opposition who do not support this important law: I ask you, my friends from the Zionist Union, and ask that you reply honestly to the question of what is in this law that you oppose. It is a law that expresses the deepest foundations of Zionism and the foundation on which the State of Israel was built. It states the obvious: The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

"I turn to each and every one of the members of the Knesset: This is a historic and formative moment, do your duty and follow the path of the greatest Zionist leaders and founders of the state. Vote in favor of the Nationality Law,” said Levin.