Kahlon won't budge on Nationality Law

Coalition trouble ahead? Head of Kulanu faction says he will not support bill that defines Israel as a Jewish state.

Tzvi Lev ,

Moshe Kahlon
Moshe Kahlon
Photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90

Finance Minister and Kulanu party head Moshe Kahlon announced at Sunday's coalition meeting that he will oppose the Nationality Law due to what he said was its discrimination towards Israel's non-Jewish citizens.

The proposal anchors the fact that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and states that Hebrew is the official language of the state, while the Arabic language is granted "special status". The city of Jerusalem is affirmed as the capital of the State of Israel.

A special ministerial committee made up of Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), Justice Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), Economy Minister Eli Cohen (Kulanu) and MK Avi Dichter (Likud) recently completed most of its draft on the Basic Law: Israel as the State for the Jewish People.

The original version of the bill, which was written by Dichter, defined Israel as a Jewish State with a democratic form of government. The bill was then modified due to Kahlon's insistence that the legislation define Israel as both Jewish and democratic, which Kahlon said would ensure that Israel's non-Jewish citizens do not face discrimination.

Last week, however, Levin announced the Dichter's original version of the bill would advance to the Knesset, which prompted Kahlon to oppose the bill's advancement.

The Likud denied that Kahlon opposed the bill and claimed in a statement that Kahlon had put the brakes on its advancement for procedural reasons.

This is not the first time that the Kulanu faction has delayed the bill from advancing. In May Kahlon vowed to oppose the bill unless the committee removed a hotly contested amendment to the bill that instructed courts to rule according to Jewish civil law in issues which Israeli law does not address.

Netanyahu has promised to pass the bill during the Knesset's winter session and last week stressed to incoming Coalition Chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) that his first task will be to pass the measure, which he called "one of the most important laws to enter the history pages of the State of Israel".

The Israeli government has been attempting to pass the proposal for years. In 2015, Prime Minister Netanyahu shelved a similar iteration of the bill after then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni vehemently opposed the bill and threatened a coalition crisis.