Jewish-nation bill frays Israel’s delicate social fabric

November 26, 2014
(Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Jerusalem November 18, 2014. Two Palestinians armed with a meat cleaver and a gun killed four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday before being shot dead by police, the deadliest such incident in six years in the holy city. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to respond with a "heavy hand" and accused Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence in Jerusalem. REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

(Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Jerusalem November 18, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Israel is poised to pass one of the most divisive laws in its 66-year history, a bill that would declare it the homeland of the Jewish people only — and further alienate its Arab minority.

Political infighting over the measure is already threatening to tear apart Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

The legislation, which is seen as compromising equality by differentiating between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens in enshrining some symbolic rights to the Jewish people, could also have long-term practical ramifications for Israeli democracy and jurisprudence.

Netanyahu, along with other right-wing politicians pushing the law, say it is essential to protecting Israel’s identity against those questioning its right to exist.

Some commentators say Netanyahu is going ahead now to court a key constituency of right-wing voters he has been losing to far-right parties in his already shaky coalition, with an eye to a possible early election next year should cracks within the government widen.

Centrists in his government argue such legislation is unnecessary, noting the 1948 Declaration of Independence already proclaimed a Jewish state. They accuse him of pandering to hardliners in his Likud party.

Read the full story by Maayan Lubell here.

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