A Compromise on the Jewish State Law?

Netanyahu plans to bring own version of 'Jewish State Law' before Cabinet Sunday. Bill will be a compromise between various approaches.

Ben Shaul, Cynthia Blank ,

Netanyahu and Livni
Netanyahu and Livni
Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu plans to use his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday to propose a new drafted version of the controversial 'Jewish State Law' - which catapulted the coalition into crisis. 

MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) was promoting the law, which seeks to define Israel as the State of the Jewish People, last Sunday, when it was to go before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for approval. 

The bill had enough votes to pass due to a right-wing majority in the committee, despite protest and opposition from several ministers and MKs, including Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), who argued that the bill violates democracy. 

However, committee head, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, also a long-time and extremely vocal opponent of the bill, removed any discussion of it from the committee's agenda. 

"Passing this law today may impede that [cooperative] process. I am using my authority to put off the debate", she announced.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who heard about Livni's decision, announced immediately that the debate on the Jewish State Law would be put on the Cabinet's agenda, in effect circumventing Livni's attempt to block it. 

The bill, as it stands now, legislates that all Jewish schools will teach Jewish history as well as Jewish tradition and heritage. Hebrew will be recognized as the only official language in Israel. Arabic, which as of now is considered an official language in Israel, will instead be given special status. 

The bill also declares that the State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which a Jew can exercise his desire for self-determination in accordance with his historical legacy. This right to exercise national self-determination will be provided to Jewish people only.

According to a Yedioth Ahronoth report Thursday morning, as a compromise, Netanyahu's new draft will try to overcome the controversy created by Elkin's bill. 

The wording of the bill will seek to create a balance between the approach of Livni and that of Elkin. Netanyahu's proposal puts forth the principles of democracy and the Jewish character of the state as equals. 

A portion of the draft reads: "The right to national self-determination shall be exercised in the State of Israel only by the Jewish people. Israel is a democratic state based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel. It upholds the personal rights of all citizens under the law." 

Despite stressing the existence of personal rights, the Prime Minister's words here mean that Israel does not guarantee national rights to minorities in the country.

This may not be a sufficient compromise for some MKs, like Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On, who argued the law makes "Israeli Arabs second-class citizens."

Minister of Justice Livni is also working on her own formulation of the law, which will focus on the country's democratic identity over its Jewish one. Her bill will include the principles of Jewish equality, democracy and human rights.

This proposal would be radically different than the bill Elkin put forth, which subordinates the democratic nature of the state to the Jewish character of the state.