If Rivlin signs in Arabic, does that mean Jewish nation-state law isn’t binding?
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If Rivlin signs in Arabic, does that mean Jewish nation-state law isn’t binding?

Since Arabic is no longer an official tongue in Israel, what would become of legislation signed into law in that language?

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks with President Reuven Rivlin during the Israel Prize ceremony at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem on May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) speaks with President Reuven Rivlin during the Israel Prize ceremony at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem on May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Don’t know about you, but I’m having little visions of President Reuven Rivlin practicing signing his name in Arabic.

What am I talking about?

The president, unhappy like so many of us with the new Jewish nation-state law, is reported to have said that he will fulfill his legal obligation to sign the legislation into law but will do so in Arabic — as a symbolic act of solidarity with Israel’s non-Jewish minority, many of whom are protesting that the law discriminates against them.

Read: The trouble with Israel’s Jewish nation-state law

Asked by The Times of Israel whether the president is indeed going to affix his John Hancock in a language that the new law demotes from official to merely “special,” the office of the president on Tuesday refused to confirm or deny the claim.

So now I’m wondering whether, if Rivlin does indeed sign his name in Arabic, this might leave the law — already being challenged in the Supreme Court — vulnerable to a further legal threat.

How so?

Well, if Arabic is no longer an official language of Israel, and the president’s final, formal approval of the legislation is written in this non-official lettering, would that mean that the law is not, in fact, legally binding? Is it not on the books if the president’s approval is affixed in a merely “special” rather than an official language?

I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve seen claims that the president’s signature is not a condition for legislation to take effect, and I’ve seen claims to the contrary. Maybe we’ll soon have to find out definitively.

Meantime, honestly, how did our leaders get Israel into this mess? And can we please get out of it?

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