Israele: Knesset approves controversial nation-state bill

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at a ceremony site on

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at a ceremony site on"July 15 Martyrs Bridge in Istanbul

Presidential aide and spokesman Ibrahim Kalin "strongly condemned" a new law proclaiming Israel a "Jewish nation-state", that was passed after a long and stormy debate, Thursday.

After it passed in the Knesset, Arab lawmakers teared the nation-state bill in protest whereas moments after the bill had passed into law, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "This is a defining moment - long live the State of Israel".

"While the democratic State of Israel facilitates freedom of religion and affords people of various backgrounds the right to visit and reside there, the reality is that Israel is inherently a Jewish state and affirming that fact does not contravene the liberties that it benevolently bestows to individuals of other faiths", the group said in a statement.

"I think this is racist legislation by a radical right-wing government that is creating radical laws, and is planting the seeds to create an apartheid state", said physician Bassam Bisharah, 71.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Knesset plenary session ahead of the vote on the National Law
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Knesset plenary session ahead of the vote on the National Law

"Lately, there are people who are trying to destabilise this and therefore destabilise the foundations of our existence and our rights", he added.

Sheila Gewolb, the senior vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, stated, "Whilst we celebrate Israel's Jewish-ness, there is concern that some of the measures in this law are regressive steps". This is our country.

Instead, a more vaguely worded version was approved, which says: "The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment".

But opponents say it marginalizes the country's Arab minority.

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The legislation, adopted by 62 votes to 55, makes Hebrew the country's national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

The newly-adopted measure is categorized as among Israel's so-called "Basic Laws", which underpin the regime's legal system and are more hard to repeal than regular laws under its constitution.

However, it will likely face a challenge at the Supreme Court.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List, pulled out a black flag and waved it during his speech in parliament, warning of the implications of the law.

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"A hundred and twenty-two years after [the founder of modern Zionism Theodore] Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence", Benjamin Netanyahu said. Critics contend the bill's expansive language would be devastating to Israel's image and undermine its positioning as being both Jewish and democratic.

"It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens", the statement said. Two voters abstained from voting.

One Arab lawmaker termed it as a "death of democracy", according to the Reuters report.

But critics say it excludes the 20 percent Arab minority population.

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