Livni bashes PM’s plan to codify Israel’s Jewish status

Justice minister won’t allow state’s democratic values to be ‘subjugated’ to its Jewish ones; Yesh Atid also set to oppose law

in Jerusalem. April 27, 2014. (photo credit: Amit Shabi/FLASH90)
in Jerusalem. April 27, 2014. (photo credit: Amit Shabi/FLASH90)

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday that she would oppose any attempt to disrupt the delicate balance of Israel’s Jewish and democratic values, regardless of who is behind it.

Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to advance a new Basic Law which would enshrine the state’s Jewish status, Livni pledged “to continue to defend Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state, and by no means will we allow for the weakening of democratic values and their subjugation to the Jewish ones.”

“This is the essence of the Declaration of Independence and this is the basis of our existence,” Livni said. “Just as I have rejected initiatives like this in the past, I will do it [again], no matter who is suggesting them,” she added.

The justice minister also said that she appointed Professor Ruth Gavison a few months back to formulate a law “that would preserve the essential balance of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic.”

Livni previously supported similar legislation proposed in the last Knesset by former Kadima MK Avi Dichter, but later opposed it.

According to Channel 2, the Yesh Atid party was also expected to oppose a new Basic Law enshrining the Jewish character of the state of Israel, a move which therefore has the potential of creating a coalition crisis.

Earlier on Wednesday at an event to mark Israel’s Independence Day in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said he intended “to submit a Basic Law to the Knesset that would provide a constitutional anchor for Israel’s status as the national state of the Jewish people.”

Leaders from left-wing Knesset parties also railed against Netanyahu’s proposal, saying the move would be ineffectual. “The political failure from Netanyahu’s camp is leading to the loss of a Jewish majority and making Israel a binational state,” Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said. ”This distressing fact, no law can conceal.”

Meretz party leader Zahava Gal-on called it “a superfluous legal declaration that will not help Israel remain a Jewish state.”

“In the State of Israel there are also non-Jewish citizens and therefore the state must define itself as the state for the Jewish people and all its citizens,” she said.

The new Basic Law would respect the rights of non-Jewish minorities living in the country, in accordance with Israel’s Declaration of Independence, Netanyahu said.

Israel has no constitution, but the Supreme Court has declared that Basic Laws have the same standing as one.

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