Rivlin said to vow he will sign nation-state law in Arabic
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Rivlin said to vow he will sign nation-state law in Arabic

Activist says president, who is opposed to legislation that downgraded language's status, told him he will make protest gesture; president's office refuses comment

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the annual memorial service for the victims of the Altalena attack, in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the annual memorial service for the victims of the Altalena attack, in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

President Reuven Rivlin has allegedly vowed to sign the recently passed nation-state law in Arabic in an apparent protest against the legislation, which ended the language’s status as one of Israel’s official tongues.

The reported pledge came amid widespread protests against the law, which enshrines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people and which downgraded the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but also cryptically stipulated that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

Dr. Thabet Abu Rass of the Abraham Fund, which supports Jewish-Bedouin coexistence, claimed Monday that Rivlin made the comment at the sidelines of a conference in the Bedouin village of Kuseife that aimed to bolster employment rates in the Arab community.

During the conference, Abu Rass personally asked Rivlin to speak out against the law, adding that it has caused “demoralization” within the Arab community.

According to Abu Rass, at the end of the conference the president told him: “I can’t refuse to sign the law, because then I will have to resign. But if I sign it — I will sign in the Arabic language.”

A spokesperson for Rivlin on Tuesday declined a Times of Israel request to confirm or comment on the matter.

President Reuven Rivlin (L) meeting with Druze community leaders at his residence in Jerusalem on July 29, 2018. (Mark Neiman/ GPO)

On Sunday, Rivlin met with regional council heads from the Druze community, who also slammed the law. He told them that “our partnership exists at the core and foundation of this state.”

“I expressed my opinion during the Knesset discussions,” he added. “I have no doubt that you are legally equal, and we should make sure that you also feel equal.”

The nation-state law — which for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” — has sparked widespread criticism from Israel’s minorities, the international community and Jewish groups abroad.

The legislation, proponents say, puts Jewish values and democratic values on equal footing. Critics, however, say the law effectively discriminates against Israel’s Arabs and other minority communities. The law became one of the basic laws, which, similar to a constitution, underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.

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