Right-wing demands Knesset nationality legislation empower religious law

A bill that defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is encountering political challenges.

By: World Israel News Staff

The Jewish Home party threatened on Monday to block the passage of a bill titled “Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People” if the Likud party drops a clause that strengthens the role of Jewish law in the State of Israel’s legal code.

The bill seeks to give the legislation quasi-constitutional status as a Basic Law, which necessitates the support of a majority of Knesset members.

The bill initially included provisions giving special consideration to traditional Jewish law in Israel’s legal code, a key demand presented by the Jewish Home party.

However, Likud MKs have signaled they wish to drop the clause, Jewish Home lawmakers charged.

Senior Jewish Home MKs said Monday that if the clause is not included, the party will block passage of the amended version of the bill.

“It is unthinkable that there would be no mention of Mishpat Ha’ivri [traditional Jewish law] in the Nationality Law,” said Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home), Arutz 7 reported.

“Likud leaders promised to include this in the Nationality Law. Has the Likud really decided to abandon Mishpat Ha’ivri?” he declared.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to bring the bill to a vote in the Knesset for its second and third readings next week.

The following is included in the legislation: the definition of Israel as the Jewish and democratic nation-state of the Jewish people; the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their historic homeland as well as recognition of the state’s official symbols; Jerusalem as the country’s capital, with Hebrew as its official language and Arabic as a language with special status; and the principle of “the gathering of exiles” and Jewish immigration to the state.

In addition, the proposal anchors Israel’s connection with Diaspora Jewry and the right to preserve a heritage for all residents of Israel, regardless of religion or nationality.

The bill establishes the Hebrew calendar as the state’s official calendar and the commemoration of Israel’s Independence Day, the Jewish holidays and the days of remembrance in the Basic Law.

Although the bill distinctly defines the State of Israel as a vehicle for the Jewish people to exercise national self-determination, the legislation also recognizes that “every resident of Israel, regardless of religion or national origin, is entitled to work to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity.”

The bill also includes a section which would allow Jewish communities to refuse to allow non-Jews to live within their boundaries. This is the only actionable section of the bill, which otherwise is mostly declarative.