Seven years after it was first proposed, lawmakers in Israel passed the legislation that defines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people on Thursday.
The law. which is largely symbolic, asserts that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called its passage a "historic moment in the history of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel." While Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition has hailed the move as the fulfillment of Zionism’s fundamental goals, leftists have denounced it as racist.
"Israel is the state of the Jewish people, which honours the individual rights of all its citizens. I repeat this is our state. The Jewish state," Netanyahu said.
"Lately, there are people who are trying to destabilize this and therefore destabilize the foundations of our existence and our rights," he added.
The legislation also addresses the question of a national capital for the Jewish state. It declares that " Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel."
According to critics, the law omits any mention of democracy or the principle of equality and betrayal of Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which ensured “complete equality of social and political rights” for “all its inhabitants”.
Arab members of Knesset confronted Netanyahu as he left the venue and ripped up copies of the legislation crying "apartheid!"
“You passed an apartheid law, a racist law!” Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Arab Joint List, shouted after the legislation was passed.
“How dare you talk this way about the only democracy in the Middle East?,” Prime Minister Netanyahu, surrounded by the members, replied.
The law, passed by the Knesset with 62 members out of 120 voting in favour of it, is now part of Israel’s basic laws. These laws supersede the country’s Declaration of Independence, have never been overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court, and can be amended only by the Knesset.
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