Na­tion-state bill to ad­dress Jewish-demo­cratic im­bal­ance

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - By LAHAV HARKOV

The coali­tion agreed on Thurs­day to make changes to the draft of the Jewish na­tion-state bill, in re­sponse to con­cerns that, in its cur­rent ver­sion, it could put re­li­gious law ahead of the laws passed by the Knes­set.

The cur­rent text be­gins: “The State of Is­rael is the na­tional home of the Jewish peo­ple, in which it re­al­izes its as­pi­ra­tion for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion ac­cord­ing to its cul­tural and his­toric her­itage.” Soon after: “What is said in this Ba­sic Law or any other ob­ject of leg­is­la­tion will be in­ter­preted ac­cord­ing to what is es­tab­lished in this ar­ti­cle.”

Be­cause the open­ing ar­ti­cle doesn’t in­clude a men­tion of democ­racy, law­mak­ers in the coali­tion and op­po­si­tion said it could be in­ter­preted to mean that Jewish “cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal her­itage,” that is re­li­gious law, or Halacha, came be­fore all else in in­ter­pret­ing laws.

The spe­cial com­mit­tee work­ing on the bill plans to move up the word­ing of an ex­ist­ing ar­ti­cle that says Is­rael is a democ­racy to the open­ing sec­tion of the bill, so that it will be part of how all other laws are in­ter­preted.

Ba­sic Law: Na­tion-State of the Jewish Peo­ple de­clares that Is­rael is the na­tion-state of the Jewish peo­ple, and in­cludes ideas of what that en­tails, in­clud­ing the na­tional an­them and state sym­bol, hav­ing Shab­bat and Jewish hol­i­days as na­tional days of rest, the Law of Re­turn and com­mit­ment to Di­as­pora Jewry, and more.

Likud MK Amir Ohana, who heads the com­mit­tee work­ing on the bill, said “there is no drama” in the change.

“The Ba­sic Law starts by say­ing clearly that the State of Is­rael is the na­tion-state of the Jewish peo­ple, and theirs only,” Ohana said. “The sug­gested change is to an­chor the State of Is­rael as a Jewish and demo­cratic county in the spirit of the Dec­la­ra­tion of the In­de­pen­dence, a prin­ci­ple that ap­peared in the orig­i­nal bill and all of its drafts, in the ar­ti­cle dis­cussing the bill’s prin­ci­ples rather than its goals.”

In any case, Ohana pointed out, the com­mit­tee will have to dis­cuss the change be­fore it is made.

Ku­lanu MK Rachel Azaria, who led the charge in the coali­tion to amend the bill, called it “ex­cel­lent.”

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