A hard-line Israeli lawmaker is seeking to have an addendum added on to a controversial bill calling for affirmative action for minority communities who take active part in defending the state.
The amendment from Likud’s Danny Danon would mostly affect the country’s Druze community, which takes part in military service.
Officials from the group have registered concern that the so-called “Jewish state” bill, which would enshrine Israel’s Jewish character, could make them and other minorities into second-class citizens.
The bill is being aggressively pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite widespread international and local criticism. Netanyahu on Wednesday defended the draft legislation before the Knesset.
The bill, which currently has several versions, has been blasted for elevating Israel’s “Jewishness” over its democratic nature in some of its drafts. Opponents argue that it alienates the country’s non-Jewish citizens, including the Druze and Arab communities.
Danon said Thursday that the amendment is meant to honor the Druze community for its contributions to the state, Channel 2 reported.
“We must handle this [injustice] immediately. And by immediately, I mean yesterday morning. To apply affirmative action at every level when it comes to the Druze community,” he said.
The former deputy defense minister is set to convene a meeting Friday in the Druze town of Daliyat al-Karmel with leaders of the community to discuss proposed changes to the legislation.
The mayor of the town outside Haifa was quoted as saying that if signed into law, the bill would distance the Arab minority from its Israeli identity.
The introduction of the bill — harshly criticized by some Israeli lawmakers and officials outside Israel — has come at a time of increased Jewish-Arab tensions, which has sometimes spiraled into violence in Jerusalem and the north of the country.
A Druze policeman was killed trying to thwart a terror attack in Jerusalem last week, highlighting Druze military service and sparking praise for the community.
Earlier Thursday, Murat Saif, brother of policeman Zidan Saif who was killed in the Har Nof synagogue terror attack last week along with four rabbis, said he wouldn’t encourage Druze teens to enlist in the IDF because the bill seeks to legislate Israel’s Jewish status and would differentiate between “Druze and Jewish blood,” Israel Radio reported Thursday.
The remarks came after Netanyahu met with Druze community leaders on Wednesday and expressed condolences on the recent deaths of two Druze police officers: Saif and Border Police Chief Inspector Jedan Assad, who was killed earlier this month when a Palestinian terrorist drove his car into a crowd at a light rail station in Jerusalem.
“You are our very flesh. You are an organic part of Israeli society. Your heroic policemen and soldiers have fallen in order to defend the state and all its citizens, but we will defend your rights and your security,” Netanyahu told the Druze leaders.