Bennett with senior Jewish Home party MKs (fi
Bennett with senior Jewish Home party MKs (fi Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The Jewish Home party has lashed out at its left-wing coalition partners, in particular Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), as a coalition crisis over the "Jewish State bill" appears to be coming to a head.

Senior Jewish Home party officials reacted with fury to Livni's attempts to postpone the key ministerial discussion on pushing the bill through for a Knesset vote.

Livni had announced her attention to postpone the ministerial debate just a few hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu threw his weight behind it. The PM effectively vetoed her decision by placing it on the agenda for today's cabinet meeting - but for Jewish Home MKs the attempt to breach a key coalition agreement by Livni is the final straw.

"Livni played a dirty trick - she acted in contradiction to the coalition agreement," senior party sources told Arutz Sheva.

In response to her actions, Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett told Arutz Sheva his party would no longer be supporting any bills promoted by her Hatnua party or by the secularist Yesh Atid party, which has also largely opposed the law.

The law was originally put forward by senior Likud legislator Ze'ev Elkin, and seeks to cement Israel's status as the "nation-state of the Jewish people" by making that definition part of the country's Basic Law.

It has been supported by nationalist MKs as a means to combat attempts by far-left and radical Arab anti-Zionist to undermine the Jewish character of the State of Israel, but some left-wing MKs - including Livni - have claimed it would undermine the rights of non-Jewish minorities.

Speaking earlier Sunday, Netanyahu explained why he endorsed the bill - with some provisions - as an expression of Israel's character as a "Jewish and democratic state." 

Dismissing left-wing criticisms of the bill, the PM emphasized that "Israel is a Jewish and democratic state."

"Democracy here finds expression in the right of every person to vote in secret elections. It finds expression in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which promises full individual rights in a manner that is unprecedented anywhere in the very large region around us," he said.

On the other hand: "the Jewish aspect of the state finds expression in its being the one and only national state of the Jewish People, with a flag, national anthem and the right of the Jewish People to come here," Netanyahu added.

"The balance between these two facets is necessary, both to balance our judicial system, which certainly recognizes the democratic aspect, and now needs to also recognize the aspect of our being the national state of the Jewish people."

"We welcome today the nation-state bill, which should bring this balance," he continued. "It will need a lot of changes made to it and a lot of hearings on it, but basically, it should be clear that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people - on the provision of equal rights for all its citizens."