The Knesset Joint Committee of the nationality bill voted Tuesday to approve the bill’s controversial article 7, which was rewritten following an agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett Sunday.
Article 7 authorizes the establishment of "separate communities" that critics deem racist. The new version of the bill states that Israel "views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment."
The current version of the bill has been agreed upon by various legal bodies and by the Bayit Yehudi and the Likud parties. Some sections were approved Monday by the Joint Committee of the Nationality Bill, prior to the vote in the Knesset plenum.
The committee, headed by MK Amir Ohana (Likud), concluded voting on all the reservations that were raised and revisions will now be submitted before the final vote on the article.
After a five hour stormy session on Monday, the committee voted to approve all other sections of the bill. Article 5 establishes that the state will be open to Jewish immigration. Article 6 concerns the connection between the state and the Jewish Diaspora as well as the importance of preserving Jewish culture and history.
The first four articles were approved last Tuesday, including article 4 which sought to eliminate the status given to Arabic as an official language in the state.
The bill was originally supposed to be voted on by the Knesset Plenum on Monday, but due to reservations by Haredi MKs who wish to consult their rabbinical advisers regarding several sections of the bill, and the fact that the reservations on article 7 are only being dealt with Tuesday, the bill is now scheduled for a Knesset vote on Wednesday.
The coalition is anxious to pass the legislation this week as this is the last week of the Knesset's summer session.
Regarding the tension generated by the bill, “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," Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri explained.
Nizri 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 1 c—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,” Nizri asserted.
Earlier, Nizri said that as an attorney he sees some articles of the bill as discriminative, eliciting Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich's ire. “Your words mean nothing,” Smotrich said before later apologizing to Nizri for his outburst.
MK Yariv Levin (Likud), the law's leading advocate, told Ynet, "There has been no intervention regarding basic laws to this day," said Levin, referring to the next hurdle awaiting the bill in the High Court of Justice.
“There is no such thing as a court placing itself above what it calls the constitution, and decides that it also determines what the basic values and the basic laws are, "Levin said.