Opposition to the government's newly approved amendment to the Citizenship Act, which will require all non-Jews who wish to become Israeli citizens to pledge allegiance to a "Jewish and democratic" Israel,
has been voiced by several Likud members, one of whom is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence Services Dan Meridor.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new
direction, he told Ynet, will create "a different Israel."
Meridor believes the new law will have two negative ramifications: "The first an internal one, vis-à-vis the Arab sector. This move is part of a series of actions which create an atmosphere of exclusion… This is not a security matter. The government is responsible for all citizens and it's wrong to create the perception that they are not part of the state on one hand, and demand loyalty on the other – that's a contradiction.
"This is the Jewish people' state. We've inscribed that in our Basic Laws. Do we really have to keep repeating it? It creates detrimental tensions," he said.
The second ramification Meridor warns of is the possible harm to Israel's international image: "We are in the midst of fighting a de-legitimization campaign against Israel, which is a huge danger. This fight has to be managed carefully and this is not helping us. No other nation mandates such a thing, why give anyone another thing to use against us?
Devoid logic? The cabinet (Photo: AP)
"There are times when you have to pay a price for a result. We have nothing to gain here. There is no real problem. There aren’t millions beating down our door. There is no logic in paying a price when there is no problem. I see no good in this, only harm. This isn't the Israel we know."
Meridor also rebuffed MK Michael Ben Ari's (National Union) claims, that the government had de facto affirmed the political notions of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the radical right-wing Kach Party in the 1970s. Kach was outlawed in 1994.
"The Likud is a liberal movement, not a nationalistic one. We aspire for a national liberal state, and we seek a compromise that will include minorities. You have to balance the national aspect with the humane one. The national aspect and human rights have to be balanced. When you have no state, you have to fight for it. When you have a state, it should not impose redundant notions on its minorities. We have already won the historic battle."
The amendment to the Citizenship Act does not contradict any of Israel's Basic Laws, and therefore the High Court is unlikely to squash it on appeal, top legalists told Ynet Monday.
The controversial aspects of the loyalty pledge are more social than legal, said a top legalist. "The law will not actually prevent anyone from obtaining citizenship. Knesset members and judges are not required to take a similar oath, and I can't understand why we should require people to do something the leaders themselves don't do," he said.
He too believes the new amendment will damage Israel's international standing: "Many will view it as racist. It's an unnecessary provocation."
"This is political-public problem not a legal one," added another senior legal expert. "The amendment does not contradict any Basic Law since it does not target a specific minority, so I cannot see how the High Court can negate it; but still, I fail to see the urgency in adding it to the legislation."
Meanwhile, public uproar over the amendment is growing. Author Sefi Rachlevsky, one of the organizers of the "declaration of independents from fascism" – the banner under which a mass protest rally was held in Tel Aviv Sunday, told Ynet that the protest was the first in a series of moves meant to overturn the government's decision.
The authors, academics and artists who signed the declaration, believe that there is a public majority who will back them. "The very essence of democracy is that each person can have a different opinion and that you cannot impose general beliefs on individuals," he said.
"The fundamental thing here is protecting civil rights. Once you infringe on that or condition it, you venture into radical fascism." Today's politicians, he added, have lost all sense of measure: "They are exploiting the fact that we have no fundamental structure to tear our essence apart.
"This is not a fight between the Left and the Right, but between democrats and fascists. What are people like Meridor and (Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay) Braverman – who spoke out against this law – still doing in the government?
"The fact the Israel is become fascist and racist is our biggest threat," said the author, stressing that not all is lost. "Veering away from the democratic camp is isolating us for the West. We intend to keep this movement going. There is a real sense of emergency and we most definitely aim to win this."
Ronen Medzini and Aviad Glickman contributed to this report