The Likud and Habayit Hayehudi parties agreed in their coalition agreement to advance a controversial Basic Law subverting Israel’s democratic identity to its identity as the state of the Jewish people.
Former MK Avi Dichter, then a member of Kadima, submitted two versions of the bill during the previous Knesset’s term. The first would have removed the Arabic language as an official language in Israel, granting it instead a “special status.” The second softened this clause.
According to the text of the first bill, the state would invest resources in promoting Jewish settlement but would not commit itself to building for other national groups.
The first version of the bill also included a clause stating that Jewish law would serve as a source of inspiration for Knesset legislation. While that formulation was dropped in the second version, the new bill stated that in cases where existing laws did not provide an adequate answer to a legal question, the courts should make their rulings “in light of the principles of justice, integrity and peace of Israel’s heritage.”
Senior members of Habayit Hayehudi could not say which of the formulations would be presented to the new Knesset, but they said they did not expect that the clause regarding the Arabic language would be part of the new version.
Dichter’s version of the bill was based on a draft put together by the Institute for Zionist Stategies. Then-Kadima chair Tzipi Livni stepped in at the time to block the bill, following widespread public criticism.
Livni, now head of Hatnuah, is slated to become justice minister in the new government, as well as the head of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which decides which bills will receive the government’s support. As such, she will have the power to either advance or block such a bill.
Comment by Ted Belman
This article says “As such, she will have the power to either advance or block such a bill.” That’s no true. The committee votes on whether to have Knesset vote on bill. The article linked to in this paragraph says:
to a large extent the fate of Knesset bills is actually determined by the 17 ministers who belong to the committee – and sometimes just by the handful who show up that day. In at least one vote, just one member – Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who heads the committee – was recorded as being present.
“that as the Chair of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, she would block the Jewish Nation Law, which is a part of Likud’s agreement with Bayit Yehudi.
“The law changes the balance between Israel’s “democratic” and “Jewish” nature, and makes it clear that of the two principles, the definition of the state’s Jewish nature is the more important one.”
‘The law would downgrade the status of the Arabic language as an official language and would promote construction policies that favor Jews.”