Israeli minister apologizes after Druze protest nation-state law

Education Minister Naftali Bennett apologized after the Druze community protested the passage of the nation-state law.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Minister of Education and strong supporter of the new nation-state law Naftali Bennett took to Twitter Tuesday to say the government “has a responsibility to heal the rift” with its Druze citizens after representatives of the community slammed the legislation as hurting their basic rights.

On Sunday, these heads, along with three Druze parliamentarians, filed a petition to the High Court of Justice to annul the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. Two of the MKs come from the coalition (Kulanu and Yisrael Beitenu) and voted against its passage last week.

In addition, 100 Druze reserve officers, among them brigadier generals, joined a protest group against the legislation declaring that (only) the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in Israel.

Bennett defended the need for the law in his social media post, stating that it was “vital because in a whole list of judgments, the High Court of Justice gradually emptied the Jewish aspect [of the country’s self-definition] of its content….strengthening the ‘democratic’, ignoring ‘Jewish.’”

However, he admitted that after speaking with community representatives, he realizes there was a “specific flaw regarding our Druze brothers” in the way in which the law was enacted that was “very damaging to them and to anyone who connected his fate to the Jewish people.” Stating that this had not been the intention of the Israeli government, he promised to find a way to fix the legislation.

The legal arguments of the petitioners state, among other things, that the way the law is worded (focusing only on Jewish rights) violates non-Jewish minorities’ right to equality in general, and Druze rights in particular.

The emotional arguments leaned heavily on the contributions that the Druze have made to the state since before its inception.

Speaking to Ynet, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Amal As’ad, former commander of the Coordination and Liaison Administration, said, “After we built this home together with the Jews, the Nationality Law excludes the Druze community from that home and puts it outside the fence….  I’ve served in the IDF for this country for 26 years and I have the right to demand for it to be mine exactly as it is yours.”

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Imad Fares, who commanded the Givati Brigade from 2001-2003, lamented, “The feeling is it was decided to bury us outside of the graveyard….I don’t understand why this law is necessary. Is somebody questioning that the fact the country is Jewish? This law only creates second-class citizens.”

“The lawmakers would have been smarter if they had written it according to the Declaration of Independence, which mentions a Jewish country that allows minorities to coexist in it,” he concluded.

Not all Druze officials agree on this, however. Minister of Communications Ayoub Kara insisted that “the nation-state law does not turn us into second class citizens – on the contrary, it complements and does not contradict the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. The new law in no way detracts from the individual rights guaranteed to all the citizens of Israel.”

However, Kara’s position has angered many, and he and his family have received death threats, leading to his security detail being reinforced.