U.S. on Nationality Law: We believe in equality of all persons

State Department spokeswoman asked about Israel's Nationality Law, says Washington hesitates to discuss other countries' legislation.

Elad Benari ,

State Department building
State Department building

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked on Tuesday about the Nationality Law which was approved by the Knesset last week.

The Nationality Law codifies in the nation’s Basic Laws 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 Knesset approved the bill in its second and third readings by a margin of 62 to 55.

Asked by a reporter at her daily press briefing to comment on whether she is concerned the law would “make some citizens of Israel less equal than others,” Nauert responded, “We hesitate to answer questions about other countries’ legislation.”

“We are certain aware of that new law. I’d have to refer you to the Government of Israel for the specifics of that law and their position on that, but I can tell you as a general matter and as it pertains to this that we believe in equality of all persons before the law,” she added.

Asked whether she feels the law could compromise Israeli democracy, Nauert replied, “I’m not going to comment on that. That would be a question for Israelis.”

The Nationality Law has been criticized by the Arab international community. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi last week blasted the Knesset over its approval of the Nationality Law, claiming the bill is discriminatory.

The legislation was also criticized by the Arab League, which called its approval another bid to cement the “occupation of Palestinian territories” and wriggle out from recognizing Palestinian rights.

On Monday, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat blasted the Nationality Law, saying it “aims at destroying the two-state solution and replacing it with an apartheid regime.”

The law was criticized on Tuesday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who branded Israel "the world's most Zionist, fascist and racist state".

He claimed there was "no difference between Hitler's obsession with the Aryan race and Israel's understanding that these ancient lands are meant only for Jews."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fired back later on Tuesday and said Turkey was becoming a "dark dictatorship".

"Erdogan is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has imprisoned tens of thousands of his citizens," Netanyahu said in a statement. "The fact that the great 'democrator' Erdogan is attacking the Nationalism Law is the greatest compliment for this law."

"Turkey under Erdogan is becoming a dark dictatorship, while Israel is meticulously maintaining equal rights for all its citizens, before and after the law," he added.