Jewish, or Democratic? The True Aim of Israel’s ‘Nation-State’ Law

Jewish, or Democratic? The True Aim of Israel’s ‘Nation-State’ Law
Druze Spiritual Leader Sheik Mowafaq Tafik, center, at a rally against a contentious new law that critics say sidelines Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, Tel Aviv, Israel, Aug. 4, 2018 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

After it was ratified by the Knesset on July 19, Israel’s so-called nation-state bill, designed to define the state more exclusively on ethnically Jewish lines, joined the short list of Basic Laws that make up the country’s ersatz constitution. A photo of grinning Knesset members from the right-wing Likud party, commemorating the occasion by gathering for a selfie around a smirking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, quickly went viral. It took a few days for the smiles to fade, as leading members of Netanyahu’s coalition began to experience buyer’s remorse.

Much to their surprise, Israel’s ethnic minorities—specifically, the Druze community, renowned for its loyalty to the state and high representation in the Israeli military—were not pleased with a law that ceremoniously demotes their civic status. Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, took to Twitter to opine that “the way in which the legislation was carried out was extremely offensive, specifically to those who threw their lot with the Jewish State. Of course, that was not the intention of the Government of Israel… The responsibility to mend the rift lies with us.” Moshe Kahlon, leader of the centrist Kulanu party, followed suit by asserting that the law was “enacted hastily. We made a mistake and we will fix it.”

The law, however, was not enacted hastily. It was certainly enacted foolishly, which is probably what Kahlon wanted to say, as haste cannot be attributed to a legislative process that stretched over seven long years.

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