Netanyahu meets with committee on compensating minorities for nation-state law
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Netanyahu meets with committee on compensating minorities for nation-state law

At ministerial panel, Netanyahu wants to focus on improving housing, employment for Druze, Circassian communities

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a meeting to address Druze concerns in the wake of the nation-state law, on August 6, 2018. (Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a meeting to address Druze concerns in the wake of the nation-state law, on August 6, 2018. (Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the second meeting of a ministerial committee established to deal with Druze and Circassian objections to the Jewish nation-state law on Monday, his office said.

Rather than suggesting changes to the law that the minority groups say disenfranchises them, the committee focused on ways to strengthen and help those communities.

The ministers discussed how best to advance existing legislation, including a development plan for “strengthening the Druze and Circassian towns and villages,” a statement from his office said.

Netanyahu, who heads the committee, instructed the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office to meet with heads of the Druze and Circassian communities and to focus especially on issues of housing and employment.

The meeting once again took place during the Knesset’s summer recess, when much of the country is on vacation.

During last week’s meeting, it was agreed that legislation will be advanced to clarify the equal status of the minorities despite the summer recess, and that it will passed into law during the coming winter session, Hadashot TV news reported. The planned legislation will also define the status of minority community members who serve in the armed forces.

“It is important to make the right decisions, and not reckless ones,” Netanyahu told the ministers. “We worked on the Jewish nation-state law for eight years. I am not saying that we will work on this for another eight years, but it will also not be eight days.”

Israeli Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafak Tarif arrives at a rally where members of his community and their supporters demonstrated during a rally to protest against the Jewish nation-state law in Tel Aviv on August 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

The nation-state law passed by the Knesset on July 19 as one of the country’s basic laws enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” for the first time, but critics say it undermines the constitution’s commitment to equality for all its citizens.

Members of Israel’s Druze community serve in the Israeli army and have expressed particular outrage at the law’s provisions, saying it renders them second-class citizens.

Before last week’s meeting began, the head of the Druze community sent a message, saying, “We continue to request and demand from the prime minister to set the legal status of the Druze community, which will ensure full equal rights and equal citizenship in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence,” Haaretz reported.

The Netanyahu government says the new nation-state law merely enshrines the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are anchored in existing legislation. It has resisted calls to amend or scrap the law and instead have insisted on passing new legislation meant to address the concerns of the Druze.

An estimated 50,000-plus people, waving Israeli and Druze flags and calling for equality, gathered at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night to demonstrate against the bill.

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