Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin on Thursday evening to promote without delay legislation that would enshrine Israel's status as a Jewish State.
The prime minister announced his intention to introduce the new basic law at Independence Hall in Tel Aviv - the site where David Ben-Gurion announced Israel's independence on May 14, 1948.
Netanyahu's announcement has caused a political and public stir.
Opposition head Isaac Herzog (Labor) slammed the prime minister, saying that "unfortunately, the national destruction from Netanyahu's midrash will cause the loss of the Jewish majority and turn Israel to a bi-national state. This unfortunate fact cannot be obscured by any law."
Herzog clarified that "the Labor party vehemently supports Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Labor founded the country and its leaders wrote the Declaration of Independence, a constitutive document that enshrines Israel's nature as a Jewish state."
Earlier, Netanyahu said that he found it "astonishing that among those who call on Israel to make concessions in Judea and Samaria due to the self-evident desire to avoid a binational state, there are those who oppose defining the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People."
"One cannot favor the establishment of a Palestinian nation-state in order to maintain the Jewish character of the State of Israel and – at the same time – oppose recognizing that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People," the prime minister added.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On also criticized Netanyahu's proposed legislation, saying it is "a declarative and unnecessary law that won't help Israel remain the Jewish state, as long as Netanyahu and his partners in the government are doing everything to cultivate the territories and to turn us to an oppressive bi-national state, that is neither Jewish nor democratic."
Netanyahu's desire to push this legislation could lead to rifts within his government as well. Harsh criticism came from the coalition as well.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni already stated she will oppose Netanyahu's initiative.
"I will continue protecting Israel's values as a Jewish and democratic state and in no way will we allow (anyone) to weaken the democratic values and surrender them to the Jewish ones - this is the very essence of the Declaration of Independence and this is the basis of our existence," she wrote on her Facebook page.
"To that end, and in line with the prime minister and coalition's views, I've appointed Prof. Ruth Gavison several months ago to closely examine the issue and to write an appropriate bill proposal that will maintain the vital balance of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," she added.
Coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin, however, welcomed Netanyahu's decision to promote the legislation and called this "a historic decision that will put Israel back on a Zionist path, after years of continuous blows by the legal system against the basic principles the country was founded on."