Pro­posed state of Is­rael bill la­belled racist

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

JERUSALEM: Is­rael’s pres­i­dent has said a bill pro­moted by Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to an­chor in law the sta­tus of Is­rael as the na­tion-state of the Jewish peo­ple is counter to its found­ing fa­thers’ vi­sion of equal­ity for Arab cit­i­zens.

The bill comes at a time of high ten­sions in Is­rael, the oc­cu­pied West Bank and Jerusalem, where a dis­pute over ac­cess to a re­li­gious site sa­cred to Jews and Mus­lims has ig­nited Pales­tinian streets protests and lethal at­tacks on Jews.

“The for­mu­la­tors of the (Is­raeli) Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, with much wis­dom, in­sisted the Arab com­mu­ni­ties in Is­rael, as well as other groups, should not feel as the Jews had felt in ex­ile,” Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin said.

The 1948 dec­la­ra­tion, while pro­claim­ing the cre­ation of a Jewish state, em­pha­sised its demo­cratic na­ture and promised “com­plete equal­ity” of so­cial, re­li­gious and cul­tural rights for all, Rivlin said.

The bill won cab­i­net ap­proval on Sun­day, de­spite the op­po­si­tion of cen­trist min­is­ters, but sev­eral ver­sions must still be merged, and par­lia­men­tary rat­i­fi­ca­tion is not im­mi­nent.

Ne­tanyahu’s draft pledges to “up­hold the in­di­vid­ual rights of all of Is­rael’s cit­i­zens”. But it also says only the Jewish peo­ple have “na­tional rights” – the right to self­de­ter­mi­na­tion in Is­rael, a flag, an an­them and free im­mi­gra­tion.

Crit­ics say the bill is anti-demo­cratic. Legislators of the Arab com­mu­nity, which makes up 20 per­cent of Is­rael’s pop­u­la­tion of 8.2 mil­lion, say it is racist.

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