A proposed law that defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people is stirring fierce debate in the country and among politicians.
Rights groups have condemned the draft legislation as “racist” and say it discriminates against Israel’s minorities, which make up 20 per cent of the population.
The Cabinet vote, which comes at a time of heightened tensions with Palestinians, was passed by a majority of 14 votes to 6.
The wording of the bill has yet to be finalised, and requires approval by the Knesset.
It is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, and would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation, and drop Arabic as a second official language.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the bill is necessary because people were challenging the notion of Israel as a Jewish homeland.
Addressing the cabinet, Netanyahu said: “The state of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish People. It has equal individual rights for every citizen and we insist on this.
“But only the Jewish People have national rights: A flag, anthem, the right of every Jew to immigrate to the country, and other national symbols. These are granted only to our people, in its one and only state.”
So are the edges being blurred in Israel between politics and religion, the state and democracy?
And how much is religion and nationalism playing into the broader issues in the Middle East?
Presenter : Mike Hanna
Jeremy Saltan – former Knesset candidate and supporter of the right-wing party ‘The Jewish Home’.
Ahmad Tibi – Palestinian member and deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset.
Jeff Haynes – Associate dean and professor of politics at London Metropolitan University.