ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Attorney General's Office reportedly expected to oppose move

Far-right proposal saying gov’t policy must adhere to ‘Zionist values’ set for vote

Cabinet motion scheduled for Sunday asserts Jewish right to settle all ‘Land of Israel,’ including West Bank, seeks to better implement contentious Nation-State Law

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Members of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, including party leader and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir as well as Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf hold a party meeting at the illegal West Bank settlement outpost of Evyatar, February 27, 2023. (Courtesy: Otzma Yehudit)
Members of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, including party leader and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir as well as Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf hold a party meeting at the illegal West Bank settlement outpost of Evyatar, February 27, 2023. (Courtesy: Otzma Yehudit)

A government resolution to assert “Zionist values” over all matters of government policy and in particular those relating to the settlement enterprise is scheduled to be brought to a vote in Sunday’s cabinet meeting, despite expected international criticism and the attorney general’s likely opposition.

The resolution would also hand benefits to those who perform military service.

Advanced by Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, the resolution bases the Zionist values it seeks to promote on those expressed in the controversial Basic Law: Nation-State of the Jewish People, which caused outrage among the country’s minorities when it passed in 2018.

That law asserts that only the Jewish people have the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel, and sees “the development of Jewish settlement” as a national value which it will encourage and advance.

Wasserlauf’s proposed resolution appears to be expressly focused on the issue of advancing the Jewish presence in the West Bank and throughout Israel, with the text of the resolution stating that it is applicable to government agencies involved in land allocation and construction planning, such as the Israel Land Authority and the National Council for Planning and Construction.

Otzma Yehudit, led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, is an ardent opponent of Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and a strong advocate for the expansion of Israel’s settlements in the territory, and the party included a specific clause in its coalition agreement to legalize some 70 illegal settlements built without government authorization.

It appears likely that a central objective of Wasserlauf’s resolution will be to further expand the West Bank settlements.

Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister MK Yitzhak Wasserlauf during a settler activist march to the illegal West Bank settlement outpost of Evyatar, April 10, 2023. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90

Otzma Yehudit also has a negative view of Israel’s Arab minority, which comprises some 20 percent of the population, and has advocated policies to encourage Arab emigration from Israel.

The clauses of Wasserlauf’s resolution stating that unspecified “benefits” will be given to those who perform military or national service could conceivably be used to provide social and welfare benefits to the Jewish population, since the large majority of Arab citizens do not perform military or national service.

The resolution does, however, stipulate that it shall not derogate from principles anchored in Israel’s existing quasi-constitutional Basic Laws, although the principle of equality is not explicitly anchored in these laws.

Despite reports Thursday in the Hebrew press that a vote on the resolution would be postponed, Wasserlauf’s office said it expected a vote to go ahead on Sunday.

The minister’s office did not, however, respond to questions regarding the specific nature of the benefits mentioned in the resolution.

“We determine… that the values of Zionism, as they are expressed in the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, will be guiding and decisive values in the formulation of public administrative policy, internal and foreign policy, legislation and government activity and all its units and agencies… first and foremost in the fields of settlement and in giving benefits to those who served in the army and the security services, or civilian service, with priority for those who performed combat duty,” reads the resolution.

“This shall not derogate from principles anchored in existing Basic Laws,” it adds.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting alongside National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on January 3, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The explanatory text of the resolution states that “on occasion,” the considerations currently used by the government and its various branches “ignore basic Zionist values,” specifically values which express the right to self-determination of the Jewish people “in the Land of Israel,” including “in [the field of] settlement, security, culture and immigration.”

The use of the term “Land of Israel,” which relates to all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean — including the West Bank and Gaza and not just the sovereign territory of the State of Israel — would appear to strongly indicate that the policies Wasserlauf seeks to influence through the resolution pertain to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

On Thursday, multiple Hebrew media outlets reported that a senior official in the Attorney General’s Office had drafted a legal opinion opposed to the resolution, stating that it “gives the values of Zionism a status that prevails over other fundamental values, which have the same normative status from a constitutional point of view.”

However, Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon, who authored the opinion, added that the law was “practically declarative.”

The Times of Israel understands that the opinion is a draft and that a final position on the resolution is yet to be finalized.

Wasserlauf’s resolution was condemned by former foreign affairs and justice minister Tzipi Livni when he first announced his intention to bring it to a vote in the cabinet earlier this year.

“This is not Zionism, this is the continuation of the nationalistic insanity and another spit [in the face] for the values of equality in the Declaration of Independence, which states that ‘The State of Israel will strive towards the development of the land for all its inhabitants,’” wrote Livni on Twitter.

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