Contentious bill defines Israel as Jewish nation-state
JERUSALEM — An Israeli parliamentary committee deliberated Monday on the final draft of a contentious legislation that would define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The government says the bill will merely enshrine into law the country’s existing character. But critics say it excludes the country’s Arab minority, which makes up 20 percent of Israel’s population.
Israelis opposed to the bill, deeming it discriminatory, have taken to the streets to protest in large numbers on Saturday in Tel Aviv.
The country’s ceremonial president from the Likud party, Reuven Rivlin, warned against clauses that appeared to encourage segregation.
Last-minute deliberations between the coalition partners appeared to remove some of the more problematic language. But the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the bill still threatened to undermine Israel’s democratic values.
A vote on the bill, which is defined as a ‘‘basic law’’ with constitutional standing, is expected this week.
Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence outlined its nature as a Jewish and democratic state, a delicate balance the country has grappled to maintain for 70 years. The bill aims to legislate the country’s core identity.