Times of Israel/Middle East Eye/ BBC: On Thursday, the Israeli government formally passed the “Jewish nation state”law. With the Knesset’s summer recess on the horizon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to pass the law ahead of the break.
“This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu told the Knesset after the vote.
The initiative has risen to the top of the news agenda in Israel, with high-profile interventions from opponents and supporters. Last Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin warned in a public letter of what he believes are the dangers inherent in the law – especially an article designed to protect and promote the existence of Jewish-only communities.
It was passed after a stormy session in the Knesset that lasted more than eight hours. Sixty-two MPs voted for the bill, with 55 against.
However some clauses were dropped following objections by Israel’s president and attorney-general, including a clause that would have enshrined in law the creation of Jewish-only communities.
Israeli Arabs make up about 20% of the Israel’s population of about nine million people.
They have equal rights under the law, but have long complained of being treated as second class citizens and say they face discrimination and worse provision of services such as education, health and housing.
Arab MP Ahmed Tibi said the bill’s passing represented the “death of democracy”.
Adalah, an Arab rights NGO, said the law was an attempt to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies”.
Last week Mr Netanyahu defended the law, saying: “We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel’s democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides.”