Defense Minister Ehud Barak withdrew his non-conditional support for a bill amending the Citizenship Act, saying just moments before a Cabinet meeting on the matter Sunday that he would only support it if a slight adjustment is made.
During the meeting Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman, one of the ministers behind the bill, suggested that in order to avoid charges of racism the new oath would be taken by Jews as well as non-Jews. In its current form, the bill does not obligate Jewish immigrants to pledge their allegiance.
Barak had previously proposed that the amendment, which will obligate new citizens to pledge allegiance to a "Jewish and democratic state", also add the words "in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence". However, he said he would support the bill regardless, to the annoyance of a number of opposing Labor ministers.
The Labor chairman explained that the addition "reflects Israel's open and liberal spirit" and "coincides with the basic values adopted by other countries in the world".
On Saturday Barak announced he would allow Labor ministers to vote freely on the bill, and early Sunday he canceled a party meeting. Ministers Isaac Herzog and Avishay Braverman declared their opposition to the bill Saturday as well.
The man who proposed the amendment, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, opened the Cabinet meeting Sunday by saying that "clearly this will not be the final word on loyalty and citizenship, but it's an important step".
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the meeting that there was no justification for "preaching to us about democracy and enlightenment".
"Zionism established a wonderful state for us. There is no other democracy in the Middle East and no other Jewish state in the world. It is the basis of our existence, and all those who ask to join us must recognize this," Netanyahu said, adding that the amendment to the act is "the essence of Zionism".
The prime minister also quoted the father of modern Zionism, Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl, as he was also quoted by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion.
"Citizens of Israel," Netanyahu said, "The State of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and is democratic and of all its citizens. There are equal rights for everyone. There are those in the world who try to blur the relationship between the Jewish people and its state, but this connection is the air we breathe."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai said he would propose another bill stripping all collaborators with terror organizations of their citizenship. "Anyone who betrays the state, such as Hanin Zoabi, needs to have their citizenship revoked and his status will be that of a foreign worker, without any benefits," he said.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook