A controversial bill that would require all non-Jews taking Israeli citizenship to swear loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”, has been approved by the Israeli cabinet (photo, from aljazeera.net) on Sunday.
In May 2009, the cabinet rejected a similar measure.
The law has angered Israel’s Arab minority.
It still has to be passed by the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. If approved, the new law will affect the small number of non-Jews who seek Israeli citizenship.
Correspondents say it will mainly apply to Palestinians married to Israelis who seek citizenship on the basis of family re-unification, foreign workers, and a few other special cases.
Arabs make up 20% of Israel’s population.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed the proposal, which has been welcomed by right-wing ministers in the 30-member coalition cabinet, including ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk).
The oath was the centrepiece in the campaign to the 2009 election for Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party.
Election that eventually led to the party it becoming the second largest member of the governing coalition after Netanyahu’s Likud.
Talks at risk
According to Israeli media reports, all five ministers from the left-leaning Labour party voted against the proposal, as did three members of Netanyahu’s own Likud.
Before the vote, Labour ministers had said that should the law come into effect, they expected a new freeze on settlement building as a payoff.
Freeze on settlement is a key Palestinian demand in the current peace talks.
However any deal involving an extension of the partial settlement freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank was denied by both Netanyahu and Beitenu.
Ongoing Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank puts the recently renewed peace talks at risk, as the Palestinians threaten to walk out unless the freeze is reinstated.
In any eventual peace deal with the Palestinians, one of Israel’s key demands is the recognition of the country as a Jewish state.
To that end, Netanyahu has rejected the right of return of Palestinian refugees, calling it a device to destroy the state of Israel by demography.
Through the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians have agreed to recognise Israel as a state,but they have rejected the demand to recognise its Jewish character.
As for the issue of requiring some citizens, mainly Israeli Arabs, to swear allegiance to a Jewish state, it has proved deeply divisive within Israeli society.
In proposing the requirement, right-wing parties had focused on perceived disloyalty among Israeli Arabs. This drew widespread criticism as well as support.