Israel’s president slams nation-state bill as ‘discriminatory’

President Rivlin and the Knesset’s legal adviser oppose the ‘Jewish-only communities’ clause in the nation-state legislation because it is ‘discriminatory.’

By: Yona Schnitzer/TPS 

President Reuven Rivlin spoke out against the nation-state legislation Tuesday morning, which is currently being promoted by the coalition, saying it’s discriminatory against non-Jewish Israelis.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and members of the committee promoting the law, Rivlin warned that the law, should it pass, could harm the Jewish people.

Rivlin pointed out a clause in the law which would allow communities to refuse new members on the grounds of religion and ethnicity, writing that “I fear that the broad manner in which this clause is worded, without balances, is liable to harm the Jewish people, Jews around the world and within the State of Israel, and can be used as a weapon by our enemies.”

“I ask also that we look inward, into Israeli society,” Rivlin continued. “Are we willing to give a hand to discrimination based on ethnicity in the name of the Zionist vision? The proposed wording allows each community to establish a community without Mizrachim (Oriental Jews), haredim (ultra-Orthodox), Druze or LGBT. Is that the meaning of the Zionist vision?”

Rivlin concluded his letter with a plea to the recipients to reconsider the vast implications of such a law, adding that he is certain the Knesset will “act with the responsibility needed.”

Newly elected Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog voiced his support for Rivlin, saying, “The honorable President expresses this morning a moral and principled position that is important to respect, internalize and implement.”

Zionist Camp Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said: “A dramatic move, which changes the identity of the State of Israel and buries the declaration of Independence, requires a dramatic response,” adding that “in his words, the President represents the values of the Declaration of Independence and of the founding fathers of Zionism.”

Speaking against Rivlin, Likud MK Miki Zohar tweeted: “Unfortunately, President Rivlin is so busy trying to get all Israeli citizens to like him that he forgot his basic DNA. The attacks against Netanyahu’s policies have turned into a bad habit which can harm the right-wing government. Fortunately, most of the nation agrees with us and dislike his statements.”

While the controversial law enjoys wide support from the coalition, including Netanyahu, Likud Party elder MK Benny Begin also voiced his objection to its discriminatory aspects, offering a more lenient version of the law, only to be stricken down by his party members.

Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon recommended that MK Amir Ohana (Likud), who heads the joint committee reviewing the bill, not approve the article enabling the establishment of Jewish-only communities since it constitutes “total exclusion” of certain sectors in Israeli society.