Report: Netanyahu to appease Druze with ‘special standing’ law

While members of Netanyahu’s administration reportedly offered to push legislation recognizing “special standing” for minority groups that serve in the IDF, the prime minister has not agreed to amend the nation-state law.

By: TPS

Representatives of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have offered to enact legislation to enshrine a “special standing” for minority groups that serve in the IDF, but stopped short of agreeing to amend the controversial nation-state law.

The Hebrew-language Mako news website reported that Yoav Horovitz, a close advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his interim chief of staff, met with Druze leaders Wednesday and offered “solutions that provide answers, both in practical terms and the spirit [of Druze contributions to the state].”

Horovitz reportedly told Druze leader Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif that the prime minister was prepared to anchor the standing of Druze and Circassian Israelis in law, and to recognise the contribution of the Druze community to the security of the nation. The offer is also believed to have included a commitment to preserve existing Druze towns and to build new ones, as well as government investment in Druze religious, cultural and educational institutions.

The offer also contains a guarantee that all minority groups that serve in the IDF will be eligible for post-military benefits, and a promise that Prime Minister Netanyahu will head a ministerial committee to focus on issues pertaining to the Druze community.

However, it is not clear whether the offer will be sufficient to assuage Druze anger over the law. Community leaders, including Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, the highest-ranking Druze spiritual leader in Israel, have spearheaded a constant stream of criticism by minority groups of the nation-state law since it was ratified by the Knesset on July 19.

Two Druze IDF combat officers have resigned their commissions and called on community members not to serve in the army, and MK Zohair Bahaloul (Zionist Union) resigned from parliament in protest.

“I have told Druze soldiers not to leave the IDF because the battle we are currently fighting is in the civilian arena, not the military,” Safwan Marich, director of the anti-nation-state law campaign in the Druze community, told TPS on Tuesday.

“This is our homeland, we aren’t going anywhere and we aren’t leaving the IDF. This protest is not by the Druze community alone, but by all the Israeli people. Our protest is against the fact that the nation-state law defines the state’s identity but as a minority, I am not included.”

However, Netanyahu has pledged not to amend the law, which stipulates that Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people” and that “the right to realize national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The law also enshrines the Israeli flag and the national anthem into law along with Jerusalem as the state’s eternal capital, as well as defining Hebrew as the country’s only official state language, relegating Arabic to a “special status.”