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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Israel MPs push forward with bill to create 'Jewish state'

Middle East Eye

Israel’s parliament gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill defining the country as the “national home of the Jewish people” which downgrades Arabic from official language status.

The bill, supported by 48 against 41 of the Knesset’s 120 members, seeks to “defend (Israel’s) status as a Jewish and democratic state”, said Avi Dichter, the bill’s sponsor, of the ruling Likud party.

On Sunday, ministers gave the bill the initial green light.

It needs to be debated by a parliamentary committee and voted on three more times in the plenum before it becomes part of the country’s so-called “basic laws”, which are similar to a constitution.

It would give special status to the “Jewish and democratic” nature of Israel, to the Jewish calendar and to Hebrew as Israel’s official language.

The bill’s explanatory notes said such legislation was “especially crucial in times like these, when there are those who seek to undermine the Jewish people’s right to a national home in its land”.

About a fifth of Israel’s population are Palestinian descendants of those who remained after the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, and the creation of Israel in 1948.

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