Former justice minister trashes ‘Jewish state bill’

Dan Meridor says law’s proponents are singling out minorities for narrow political gain

Dan Meridor in 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)
Dan Meridor in 2012. (Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Dan Meridor, a former high-ranking Likud party lawmaker who also served as justice minister, warned Saturday against bills that would enshrine Israel’s status as a Jewish state among the country’s Basic Laws.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Meridor took issue with the bill’s treatment of the country’s Arab minority, and accused its proponents of seeking political gain at the expense of Israel’s integrity as a democratic country.

The cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday the two controversial bills, which are to be brought before the cabinet by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin, Likud MK Yariv Levin and Jewish Home party MK Ayelet Shaked.

Netanyahu proposed his version of the legislation in May, saying at the time that the state lacked “adequate expression” of Israel’s “existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people” in the country’s set of Basic Laws, which constitute its de facto constitution.

“The current bill is completely superfluous,” Meridor said. “Who will benefit from a law saying that the state is the nation state of the Jewish people? Of course that is what it is. We and our parents devoted our entire lives to building this country for the Jewish people.”

Elkin, Levin and Shaked have agreed to amend their legislation so that their respective bills would square with Netanyahu’s proposal, Haaretz reported. The prime minister’s “softened” versions of the bills would apparently seek to define Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state, which upholds the rights of all its citizens under law,” though the wording is still being finalized.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the bills and asserted that the government should not lend its support to the two pieces of legislation.

In his criticism Saturday, Meridor said, “You can’t have a law that sets down the state’s obligation to promote the heritage and culture of the majority and not the minority. Doesn’t the minority have a right, like Jews anywhere else in the world have the right?”

Meridor, a supporter of the two-state solution who is considered a moderate in comparison to current Knesset members from Likud, served as a minister in several cabinets since 1988, including between 2001 and 2013. He chose to stay out of the race for a Knesset seat in the 2013 elections.

He accused the ministers of promoting “bills that have no purpose other than short-term political gain and create unnecessary complications both on the international and the internal level. You can’t mess around with the constitution for political ends,” he added, before appealing to the bill’s proponents: “Therefore, if it isn’t too late to invoke reason – let it go, set it aside, it’s pointless.”

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