Coalition scrambles to bring ‘Jewish state’ bill to Knesset vote
search

Coalition scrambles to bring ‘Jewish state’ bill to Knesset vote

Enduring disagreements between Likud and Kulanu parties could push controversial legislation off the agenda of current session

Likud MK Avi Dichter leads a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Avi Dichter leads a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The coalition is seeking to bring the controversial, long-gestating bill enshrining the state’s Jewish character in the country’s constitutional Basic Laws to a first vote at the Knesset next week.

But ongoing disagreements with the Kulanu party may prevent the so-called Jewish state bill from advancing, and could push it off the agenda of the legislature’s winter session.

The parties were holding marathon discussions in an effort to resolve their differences in time for a plenum vote next week.

According to Haaretz, Likud MK Avi Dichter, who spearheaded the bill, has said the coming Monday contains the final open slate to bring the bill to a vote before the end of the winter session in March.

Even if passed, the bill will need to go through second and third readings at the plenum before it can become law — steps unlikely to happen during the current session.

Dichter’s Jewish State bill, for the first time in Israeli law, would enshrine Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people.” If passed, the law would become one of the so-called Basic Laws, which like a constitution guide Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.

The bill was approved in its preliminary reading in May.

But a controversial provision instructs the justice system to prefer Israel’s Jewish character to its democratic one in cases where the two are at odds.

Kulanu leaders have reportedly demanded that the clause be excised, and that the Jewish and democratic values of the state share equal footing.

The party is also said to be demanding that the bill explicitly mention equal rights for all citizens of the state, a clause the current proposal lacks.

Critics have said that the bill is discriminatory to Israel’s Arab and other minority populations.

According to the language of the government-backed proposal, while every individual has the right “to preserve his or her culture, heritage, language and identity,” the right to realize self-determination “is unique to the Jewish people.”

In another controversial clause, Arabic would be relegated from an official language to one with “special status,” which would ensure its speakers the “right to accessible state services.”

The bill was first put forward by Dichter in 2014 but, facing criticism from both opposition members and liberal-minded members of his own Likud party, it was shelved soon after. Since then, a number of versions of the legislation have been drafted by right-wing lawmakers but none has made it through the Knesset to become law.

 

Marissa Newman contributed to this report.

read more:
comments