Israeli Cabinet committee pushes bill that downgrades Arabic

Posted May 18, 2017

Posting on Facebook, author Avi Dichter said it declares the "State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people".

In February, Israel reprimanded the Belgian ambassador after his country's premier, Charles Michel, met members of both B'Tselem and Breaking The Silence during a visit to the Jewish state.

Among other things, the bill downgrades Arabic from its current status as an official language of the state to that of "special" language to make government services accessible to the country's Arab citizens.

The bill, however, must still go through a drafting by the Justice Ministry and pass several votes in parliament in what is expected to be a lengthy process to reach its potential approval.

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The bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph, R F Nariman, U U Lalit and Abdul Nazeer, had begun the hearing on May 11. It was further argued that a husband can delegate the power of pronouncing triple talaq to his wife or to another person.

Ministers gave their go-ahead Sunday to a controversial and long-debated proposal to officially define Israel as a Jewish nation-state.

If the proposed law, which substantially harms the rights of minorities, is ultimately passed by the Knesset, it will turn into a fundamental law and will become an essential ingredient of Israel's central body of legislation.

Palestinian Knesset member Esawi Freige - of the opposition Meretz party - said the committee's decision "again proves that for the current government, democracy is a swear word". This is a basic law, which has the simple objective of safeguarding Israel's status as the nation-state of the Jewish People.

The "nation-state bill" states that "the right to realize self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people". "Discrimination has received a legal stamp".

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"The danger of this bill is that it creates two classes of citizens", the Times of Israel quoted Ayman Odeh as saying.

Erel Margalit, a contender for the leadership of the centrist Zionist Union party, called the bill "reminiscent of dark periods" in history.

The bill was one of the factors leading to the collapse of the Israeli coalition government in November of 2014, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strong supporter of the legislation, clashed with then-Ministers Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, who opposed it. "To be a free people in our land", Dichter said after the cabinet's decision.

The legislative committee's chairman, Yariv Levin, also a Likud MP, said he had chose to put an end to foot-dragging over the bill. He said the state lacked "adequate expression" of Israel's "existence as the nation-state of the Jewish people" in the Basic Laws.

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The legislation enshrines the notion of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and outlines what this means from a practical perspective.