JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee approved a bill that would officially define Israel as a Jewish State.
The bill unanimously passed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. A similar bill was first proposed in 2011 and again in 2015.
The bill will go to the Knesset plenum for a preliminary vote; that vote is scheduled for Wednesday. Following the vote, it will be combined with a Justice Ministry version of the bill. The ministry has 60 days to draft its own version of the bill.
The so-called Nationality Law would create a Basic Law, similar to a Constitutional law, stating that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. Under such a Basic Law, Israeli law must be interpreted according to this principle.
The bill also would make Hebrew the country’s official language and designate Arabic as having special status, requiring all government services to be available also in Arabic.
It also addresses such issues as national symbols including the flag and the national anthem, as well as the right of return for Jews, holy sites and the Hebrew calendar. It also calls for the government to work to strengthen ties between Israel-Diaspora Jewry.
The bill also states that that “every resident of Israel, without distinction of religion or national origin, is entitled to work to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity.”
“The Nationality Law is critical in a time like this, when elements from within and without are trying to reject the Jewish people’s right to a national home in its country and the recognition of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” Likud Party lawmaker Avi Dicther , who first proposed the legislation, said, according to Ynet.
“The Palestinian aspiration to eliminate the Jewish people’s nation-state is no longer secret. The State of Israel, which demands of its enemies to recognize it as the nation-state of the Jewish people and justifiably asks its supporters in the world to back this demand, needs to be able to declare in its highest legislative level that it proudly maintains this identify,” he said.
Joint Arab List Party head Ayman Odeh in a statement following the vote called the committee’s approval of the bill a “declaration of war” on Israel’s Arab citizens. “Discrimination has received a legal stamp. The danger in this law in that is establishes two classes of citizen – Jewish and Arab,” he said in the statement.