Not unlike previous discussions at the committee, Monday's meeting erupted several times into arguments between members of the coalition and members of opposition, mainly surrounding the contentious article 7b, which allows the exclusion of citizens from cities and towns based on their nationality or religion.
In one instance, Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich attacked Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri, telling him: “Your words mean nothing.”
Earlier, Nizri said that as an attorney he sees some articles of the bill as discriminative, eliciting Smotrich's ire.
“There are many democratic countries in the world, but there is no other country that is both democratic and Jewish. We are unique in this sense. The tensions stem from that," he explained.
He rejected criticism of the bill by Arab MKs from the Joint List, telling them, "When you said that 'Jewish settlement means no Arabs'—we say absolutely not. There is a distinction between the rights of the collective and the rights of the individual, and there are national rights in this country for the Jews. I believe in this as both an attorney and as a citizen, and as written in article 1c—it is unique to the Jewish people."
"But I cannot argue with the fact that this creates discrimination. I’m not saying that in an apologetic way,” he asserted.
Smotrich then went on to brand Nizri’s legal interpretation as “not being worth anything.” He later apologized to the deputy attorney for his outburst.
During the discussion, MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) and MK Avi Dichter (Likud), who were both members the Kadima party when the nationality bill was first proposed in 2011, entered into a heated argument.
“You were a Trojan horse who was close to (Prime Minister) Netanyahu and the nationality bill was your way of leaving Kadima," Hasson accused Dichter. "It was your entry ticket to Likud, and as I see it—they did not welcome you with much love despite of the bill brought them.”
He added that the proposed bill was vetoed within the party back in 2011 by the then-Kadima chairwoman MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union).
Dichter responded to the criticism by accusing Hasson of flip-flopping on the issue. "I have to tell you, Yoel, that I did not remember that you were ever a supporter of the bill, but I do remember that there was a request to correct a few things, and they were corrected but haven’t been reviewed by the leader Tzipi Livni. It was only because you were scared. There were 40 members of Knesset who supported the bill. Chameleons envy the amount of colors you can change," Dichter pontificated.
MK Michael Malchieli (Shas) said that had article 7 of the bill not been amended, it would have allowed religious people in Israel to establish their own communities.
"Anyone who lives in our country knows that the combination of Haredim and non-Haredim in one building can be good and can be bad—there are places where it has not proven to be effective. I think that article 7 of the bill in its original version could have enabled the religious public to establish their own communities … it would have been appropriate to stay with the previous version," he opined.
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) addressed the statements made by Bezalel Smotrich during the vote.
“You have crossed a red line when it comes to the conduct of voting in the committee, and it’s good that there is a video to prove it because, God forbid, we should rely on the testimonies of Knesset members from the opposition. You are not only mocking us, you are dismissing us, erasing us, and this is how democracies have fallen in the past. Just like that,” she exclaimed.
During the discussion, MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) called on the ultra-Orthodox Knesset members to vote against article 4. "I ask you not to join this vote, but to vote with us to nix the Arabic language clause," he added.
The Knesset convenes this week for the last time before the summer break, and therefore the coalition is determined to bring the legislation to a vote in its second and third readings.
The legislation was due to go to a vote in the Knesset plenum on Monday, but due to multiple objections and the fact that the controversial article 7 will only be discussed on Tuesday, the vote was postponed and will take place no sooner than Wednesday.
On Sunday, after an intensive round of talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, an agreement has been reached regarding the contentious article 7b. According to the revised phrasing in the bill, "The State views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment."
This new revision will stipulate that according to the state, the establishment of Jewish settlements is not discriminatory, but a legitimate realization of the Zionist vision.
The ultra-Orthodox parties asked for time to consult with their rabbis in light of their opposition to several articles in the bill.