Ministers gave their go-ahead Sunday to a controversial and long-debated proposal to officially define Israel as a Jewish nation-state.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted unanimously in favor of throwing coalition support behind Likud MK Avi Dichter’s Jewish state bill, which, for the first time in Israeli law, would enshrine Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people.” If passed in the Knesset, the law would become one of the so-called Basic Laws, which like a constitution guide Israel’s legal system and are usually more difficult to repeal than regular laws.
Israel’s national identity is mentioned in a number of the country’s laws, but the 11 existing Basic Laws deal mostly with state institutions and Israel’s democratic character. The nation-state bill, proponents say, would put Jewish values and democratic values on equal footing. Critics, however, say the bill effectively discriminates against Israel’s Arab and other minority communities.
According to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decision, the bill will not go forward as a private member bill, but will instead be reformulated within two months as a government proposal, a move likely to ease its passage through the Knesset.
What follows is a full translation of the bill as presented by Dichter to the cabinet committee:
Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People
1 — Basic principles
A. The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which they realize their aspiration to self-determination in accordance with their cultural and historical heritage.
B. The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
C. The provisions of this Basic Law or any other legislation shall be interpreted in light of what is determined in this paragraph.
2 — Purpose
The purpose of this Basic Law is to defend the character of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, in order to anchor in Israel’s Basic Laws the State of Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel.
3 — The symbols of the state
A. The state anthem is “Hatikvah.”
B. The state flag is white with two blue stripes near the edges and a blue Star of David in the center.
C. The state emblem is a seven-branched menorah with olive leaves on both sides and the word “Israel” beneath it.
4 — The capital
Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
5 — Language
A. The state’s language is Hebrew.
B. The Arabic language has a special status, and its speakers have the right to language-accessible state services in their native language, as will be determined by the law.
6 — Return
Every Jew has the right to immigrate to the land [of Israel] and acquire citizenship of the State of Israel in accordance with the law.
7 — Ingathering of the exiles
The State shall act to gather in the exiles of Israel.
8 — Connection to the Jewish people in the Diaspora
A: The State shall act to strengthen the affinity between Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora.
B: The State shall act to preserve the cultural and historic heritage of the Jewish people in the Diaspora.
C: The State shall stretch out a hand to members of the Jewish people in trouble or in captivity due to the fact of their Jewishness.
9 — Preserving heritage
A. Every citizen of Israel, regardless of their religion or nationality, has the right to actively preserve their culture, heritage, language and identity.
B. The State may allow a community, including followers of a single religion or members of a single nationality, to establish a separate communal settlement.
10 — Official calendar
The Hebrew calendar is an official calendar of the State.
11 — Independence Day and memorial days
A: Independence Day is the national holiday of the State.
B. Memorial Day for the Fallen in Israel’s Wars and Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day are official memorial days of the State.
12 — Days of rest
The established days of rest in the State of Israel are the Sabbath and the festivals of Israel, during which no employee shall be employed except under conditions set in law. Members of [religious] community groups recognized by law may rest on their festivals.
13 — Hebrew law
Should the court encounter a legal question that demands a ruling and be unable to find an answer through [existing] legislation, legal precedent, or direct deduction, it shall rule in light of the principles of freedom, justice, integrity, and peace contained in the heritage of Israel.
14 — Protection of holy site
The holy sites shall be protected from desecration and all other harm, and from anything that may hinder access to their holy places for members of a religion, or that may offend their sentiments toward those places.
15 — Immutability
This Basic Law shall not be amended, unless by another Basic Law passed by a majority of Knesset members.