Lapid tells Arab media he’ll change ‘insulting’ nation-state law if he remains PM

With less than 2 weeks until election, premier seeks to drum up Arab votes with promise to amend unpopular legislation, commits to maintaining Temple Mount status quo

Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks to Arab media outlet Panet, aired October 18, 2022. (Screenshot/Panet: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid speaks to Arab media outlet Panet, aired October 18, 2022. (Screenshot/Panet: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid told Arab Israeli media channels on Tuesday that he intends to amend the contentious Nation-State Law if he retains the premiership following November 1’s election.

Speaking to Hala TV and Panet, Lapid also discussed other issues high on the list of priorities for Arab voters, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Temple Mount, and rampant gang violence in Arab communities.

Lapid reminded the media outlets that as head of the Yesh Atid party, he had voted against the Nation-State Law at its passing in 2018, and committed to adding a clause dedicated to equality between all citizens of Israel.

“There were discussions about this, that we will add a clause to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty,” he said, adding that “the Nation-State Law as it is written today is an insult to Israeli citizens that are not Jewish and it needs to be corrected.”

The Nation-State Law, which passed as a “Basic Law” — a type of protected, quasi-constitutional piece of legislation — enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people.”

Critics argue that the law contravenes the basis of Israel’s legal system, as well as its Declaration of Independence, and solidifies inequality among its citizens.

Arab Israelis and activists protest against the ‘Jewish Nation-State law’ in Tel Aviv on August 11, 2018 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The prime minister, who is slated to visit the Arab city of Nazareth next week, has ramped up his campaign in Arab society with the election day less than two weeks away.

Lapid also committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount, an issue sensitive to Arab voters and the Muslim world at large.

“We will take care of the freedom of worship of Muslims in Al-Aqsa, so that they will be able to go up and pray. We will allow Jews to go up there, without praying, but they will go up under supervision to ensure the status quo is not violated,” he said.

Referencing his September UN General Assembly speech, in which he declared his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lapid told Hala TV and Panet that “the world needed to hear this.”

“I think, and I’ve always thought, that we have to separate from the Palestinians,” he added.

Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Lapid also conveyed his desire to reduce gang crime in Arab communities, saying “there was a period with a steep decline in violence, and now we see a small rise that needs to be taken care of.”

“Some of the leaders of the crime gangs went overseas, and we damaged their finances,” he said.

Lapid predicted that 2022 would see an improvement of 10 percent in crime statistics in Arab society compared to last year.

In the final run-up to election day, Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu have turned their attention to the Arab vote, with the former seeking to raise, and the latter to suppress, turnout, which is predicted to be just 40.5 percent.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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