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Netanyahu’s Government Revives Bill on ‘Jewish State’ Status | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Oded Balilty/Pool

Tel Aviv- The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revived on Sunday hopes on declaring Israel a Jewish State after a ministerial committee approved the revised version of a bill pushed by right-wingers.

The draft law still has to be presented to the Knesset for a vote in a preliminary reading then sent again to the ministerial committee for discussion.

The new version of the bill stipulates the “State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people,” and that the “right to self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The text, written by Avi Dichter of Netanyahu’s Likud party, also declares Hebrew as the country’s only official language.

Therefore, it downgrades the status of the Arabic language from an official second language to “a special status in the state, allowing its speakers the right to language-accessible state services.”

The bill created a wide opposition within the ranks of the democratic forces in Israel, as well as the ranks of the Palestinian people of 1948.

The Israel Democracy Institute described the new bill as “violating the sensitive balance between the Jewish and democratic liners.”

The Joint List parliamentary faction also rejected it.

Jamal Zahalka, an Israeli Arab member of the Knesset representing the Balad party, said on Sunday the bill was a copy of previous sectarian laws placed in South Africa, and is therefore an “apartheid law.”

Zahalka added that the bill proves the nature of the Israeli regime, which certainly belongs to the family of the apartheid regimes.

The Israeli government coalition had tried in the previous parliament to push for two proposals of the “nation-state bill.” The first was proposed by the Jewish House and the Hawks branch of the Likud party, while the second proposal was made by Netanyahu.