A Ha’aretz editorial brought my attention back to a bill a Kadima MK is pushing through Knesset: Basic Law: Israel — the Nation-State of the Jewish People. The bill was originally presented in August, following several years of what seemed to be efforts to strengthen the legally Jewish character of the state, such as the passage of the Nakba Law and the Loyalty Oath debacle, in which non-Jewish citizens would be required to swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.”
The bill begins thusly:
A Jewish State
(1) The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it realizes its aspiration for self-determination based on its cultural and historical heritage.
(2) The right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is uniquely that of the Jewish people.
(3) The text of this Basic Law or any other legislation is to be interpreted in light of this clause.
The Ha’aretz editorial staff cites MK Rivlin’s (Likud, Speaker of Knesset) objections: “that Israel’s democratic regime would be subordinate to the state’s Jewish identity.” They go on to warn that this bill “is liable to totally breach the dividing line between the principles of a democratic regime and the categorical, indisputable preference for the Jewish majority that will only deepen the growing distrust that Arab citizens have for the state.”
The text of the bill is sadly predictable: First an foremost Israel is a Jewish state, the regime is democratic, the State will allocate resources to encourage the settlement of the country with Jews from all over the world, Shabbat is holy, preservation of holy sites, and the like.
The necessity of the Basic Law: Israel – the Nation-State of the Jewish People assumes greater validity at a time when there are those who wish to abolish the Jewish people’s right to a national home in its land, and to deny the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Anchoring the Jewish nature of the State of Israel in a Basic Law will allow for a broad agreement in the future with the establishment of a complete and comprehensive constitution.
This is clearly a reaction to “delegitimization,” and seems to fall within the broader framework of the anti-delegitimization campaigns (for example). It also reflects the zeitgeist of this Knesset.
I think this bill is potentially dangerous and damaging, but it will be interesting to see if it passes. The full text can be seen here.