MK Rotem
MK RotemFlash 90

In the wake of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s announcement on Wednesday regarding the proposed amendment to Israel’s Citizenship Law, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), Chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee said he is pleased with the decision.

During an interview on Thursday with Arutz 7, Rotem said that the decision “is not just an accomplishment of Yisrael Beiteinu, but rather an accomplishment of the Jewish state, since from now on any individual who wishes to become a citizen will have to pledge allegiance to the state.”

Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he would ask his ministers to debate and approve an amendment to the Citizenship Act, which would require anyone aspiring to become an Israeli citizen to pledge their allegiance not only to Israel, but to a Jewish democratic Israel. This amendment is similar to the one previously proposed by both Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has advocated a loyalty oath to the Jewish state for all Israelis, including Arab citizens.

Rotem expressed his regret that members of the Labor Party, such as MK Avishay Braverman who called the idea “an infuriating, irresponsible decision which will only fuel the fires of delegitimization against Israel worldwide,” are opposed to the amendment.

“They knew about this clause in the coalition agreement and they did not object,” said Rotem. “It was convenient for them to take on their respective roles [in the government] and now they shout [about the Citizenship Act]. It’s not a matter of right and left, this law is meant to protect Israel as a Jewish State. The Labor ministers must have seen the polls that are predicting six seats for their party, and they thought it would benefit them if they resist the law.”

Rotem pointed out that this amendment is only the first step in a series of citizenship laws. “At this point we will require the pledge of allegiance only to those who want to become citizens. There are lots of asylum seekers in Israel as well as Palestinian Arabs who want to force the "right of return" issue. We wanted additional laws, such as a law requiring all citizens to perform military or civilian service. This was part of our election campaign, that if there is no loyalty there is no citizenship. But slowly, not all at once.”

Rotem also reminded that Yisrael Beiteinu’s slogan during the last elections was “Lieberman – I Believe Him”, and explained that this is because the Foreign Minister “really knows how to pass laws. At this point we haven’t spoken about allegiance to the national anthem or the flag, since we realized there was huge opposition to the idea. Opponents argued that the anthem says 'Nefesh Yehudi' (a Jewish soul) yearning for Israel and not other souls, but this is the essential component of a Jewish homeland.”. Despite the opposition, Rotem expressed his belief that these proposed changes will occur in the future as well.

Rotem’s party Yisrael Beiteinu welcomed the decision on Wednesday, saying that “Every citizen is obligated to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and all the more so when one aspires to become an Israeli citizen. This is a vital, basic need, especially when there are those who wish to undermine it.”

MK Aryeh Eldad of the National Union party  and MK Danny Danon (Likud) also praised the decision. Danon said that the need to amend the Citizenship Law arose due to the disloyal behavior of Arab MKs. He may have referred to Arab MK's use of diplomatic immunity to attend and speak at anti-Israel demonstrations, visit Syria and join the ill-fated flotilla to Gaza. .

Among those who oppose the decision were MK Zeev Bielski (Kadima) who called it “insulting, harmful, and is not enough to cement Israel's status as a Jewish democratic state.” Arab MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), who is also opposed, said that the decision is political and does not show leadership, and added that “it is meant to cement the Arabs’ inferior class status by law. No amendment will be able to negate the Palestinian narrative, which has been recognized worldwide.”