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May 4, 2014 9:21 am
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Netanyahu: New Law to Define Jewish National Right to Israel, Without Infringing on Any Citizen’s Rights

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Prime Minister Netanyahu at his government's weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem. Photo: Screenshot.

Prime Minister Netanyahu at his government's weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday laid out a unilateral response to the end of the U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinian Authority by proclaiming a new legislative initiative that would emphasize Israel being the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Speaking at the start of the Israeli weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said, “The State of Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. Our basic laws give full expression to the democratic side of the state. We do this by providing full equal rights to every citizen in Israel. The basic laws do this via two main laws – Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation.”

“On the other hand, that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People is not sufficiently expressed in our basic laws, and this is what the draft basic law is meant to provide,” Netanyahu said.

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“It will define the national right of the Jewish People over the State of Israel, without infringing on the individual rights of any Israeli citizen in the State of Israel. It will reinforce the status of the Law of Return as a basic law. It will anchor in a basic law the status of the national symbols – flag, anthem, language and other aspects of our national experience. These aspects are under a constant and increasing assault from abroad and at home. But the foundation of the existence of the State of Israel stems from its being the national home of the Jewish People and from the Jewish People’s deep links to the Land of Israel.”

Netanyahu said the legislation would make it clear how Israel would defend both its existence as a Jewish country and the rights of all of its citizens.

He said, “There are those who do not want the State of Israel to be defined as the nation-state of the Jewish People. They want a Palestinian nation-state to be established alongside us and that Israel should gradually become a binational, Arab-Jewish state inside shrunken borders. But I simply say that one cannot hold the national stick at both of its national ends. They cannot say that they want to separate from the Palestinians in order to prevent a binational state, which has a certain logic, and also sanctify a binational, Jewish-Arab state within the permanent borders of the State of Israel.”

“The State of Israel provides full equal rights, individual rights, to all its citizens, but it is the nation-state of one people only – the Jewish People – and of no other people. And therefore, in order to bolster the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People, I intend to submit a basic law that will anchor this status. The new law will be formulated in dialogue with all components of the coalition so that the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state are preserved.”

Netnayhau cited a precedent for support from opposition parties.

“When the opposition, during the previous government’s term, proposed a draft law on this issue, I announced immediately that I would support it. And today, on the eve of Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars, I would like to cite ‘The Silver Platter‘ by Natan Alterman, which was originally published in the newspaper Davar in 1947: ‘We are the silver platter on which the Jewish State has been given you.’ This is clear; the time has come for us to legislate it.”

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