Netanyahu meets with Druze leaders angered by nation-state law

(JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with lawmakers from the minority Druze community who objected to a controversial law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people.

The meeting Thursday came after Druze leaders, including three Knesset members, challenged the “extreme” law in Israel’s Supreme Court and said it discriminated against Israel’s minorities.

The prime minister’s office pledged “profound commitment” to the 100,000-strong Druze community, whose members serve in Israel’s military and police. Netanyahu planned another meeting on Friday with Druze community leaders.

Also attending the meeting with Netanyahu were Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of the Kulanu party and Communications Minister Ayoob Kara – a Druze parliamentarian who voted in favour of the law.

Kahlon told Army Radio that the law had been “passed in haste,” and urged changes.

“The last thing that we want is to harm the Druze community,” said Kahlon.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the nationalist Jewish Home party, who urged passage of the law during its years of incubation, said he had now realized that its passage was damaging to the Druze minority.

“We, the government of Israel, have a responsibility to find a way to heal the rift,” he said.

Defenders of the law, which has the weight of a constitutional amendment, say it restates the obvious in declaring Israel as the nation-state of the Jews. Critics, at home and abroad, say it undermines the democratic nature of Israel, whose Declaration of Independence declared it a nation of all its citizens.

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