JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s Cabinet passed a bill that would identify Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The measure, which has engendered controversy, advanced in a 14-6 vote on Sunday. It must pass a preliminary reading and two other readings in the Knesset, which will consider the so-called nation-state law on Wednesday.
The ministers of the Likud (with the exception of Culture Minister Limor Livnat), Yisrael Beiteinu and Jewish Home parties voted for the bill, which was proposed by Zeev Elkin of Likud. Five members of the Yesh Atid party and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua opposed the nation-state bill. Livnat abstained from the vote.
Under the bill, which “defines the State of Israel’s identity as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” Hebrew would become the official language, with Arabic having “special status.” Also, the measure also calls Jewish law a basis for new legislation, among other matters.
A softening of the legislation proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly will be substituted for the current version when it returns to committee after the preliminary reading.
The Cabinet’s closed-door discussion on the bill reportedly degenerated into a shouting match.
“The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the Cabinet meeting. “It has equal individual rights for every citizen and we insist on this. But only the Jewish People have national rights: a flag, anthem, the right of every Jew to immigrate to the country and other national symbols. These are granted only to our people, in its one and only state.”