A new proposed Basic Law to officially define Israel as a Jewish state will now head to a special government-created committee, Ynet has learned, indicating the coalition is undeterred in its attempt to put the bill on the books, despite the controversy it inspired in Israel and around the world.
The proposal is expected to be presented to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday but will not be brought to a vote. Instead, the special committee, composed of representatives of the coalition, will work to reach an agreed wording for the controversial bill, and push the proposal through the approval process by the end of the summer session in July.
The committee is tasked with a difficult mission: In addition to the overall atmosphere of distrust permeating the coalition, Yesh Atid has asked to take a central role in crafting the final draft of the sensitive legislation, but said it will support its passage only if it does not harm minorities, a senior official in the faction said.
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In the current formulation, bill defines Israel as"the international home of the Jewish nation where its citizens realize the desire for self-determination according to historical and cultural heritage."
The sponsors – MKs Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) and Yisrael Beiteinu faction chairman Robert Ilatov – predicted fierce opposition and therefore presented the Knesset with watered-down version of the bill, using relatively subtle wording omitting clauses that could have proved to be divisive.
One such clause, that would have named Hebrew as the official language of Israel, was left out of the draft, but a clause was added stressing that every Israeli citizen, regardless of religion or nationality, would have the right to act to keep his/her culture, legacy, language, and identity.
"This law was born from the need to establish the stance of the State of Israel as a Jewish country and as a democratic country," said Shaked.
Justice Minister and Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who opposed the bill's previous bid during her last term, is also expected to challenge to the current legislation.
The bill currently being discussed is a reincarnation of an old bill proposed by former-MK Avi Dichter, who pushed his version over a year ago. At the time, Livni requested that the vote on the bill be postponed by a few months in a bid to await the approval of Prof. Ruth Gavison, a senior and prominent Israeli jurist, appointed to complete an examination of the bill.
In a meeting between Livni and the bill's sponsors, it was decided that voting wouldn't take place during the previous Knesset session, and instead a committee would be created that would act to reach a consensous around the bill's general outline.
The original bill by Dichter included sections that exposed deep divisions between leftist parties and Arab factions, and ths the bill failed to make progress.
MK Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid) also worked on the current bill in its infant stages, but together with Levin and Shaked, the three failed to reach an agreement. Levin and Shaked continued to work on the draft and with the help of Ilatov, arrived at the last version.