Nationality bill approved for final votes at Knesset
With 8 members voting in favor and 7 against, joint Knesset committee sends legislation to the plenum; bill's sponsor Dichter: 'MKs could now make history, or remain outside of it'; MK Tibi: 'There's no doubt the nationality bill is the lowest point in the chronic illnesses that have plagued democracy.'
Eight MKs supported the bill, while seven opposed to it at a special joint Knesset committee made up of the House Committee and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
The second and third reading votes in the Knesset are expected to take place later Wednesday, as this is the parliament's last week before it breaks for summer hiatus.
The MKs who voted in favor of the legislation were: Likud MKs Amir Ohana, Yoav Kisch, Avi Dichter and David Amsalem, Shas MK Michael Malchieli, Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer, Bayit Yehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky and United Torah Judaism Uri Maklev.
Opposing the legislation were Zionist Union MKs Yoel Hasson, Eitan Broshi and Merav Michaeli, Joint List MKs Ahmad Tibi and Yousef Jabareen, Yesh Atid MK Yael German and Meretz MK Michal Rozin.
The vote was followed by commotion in the committee, which has regularly escalated to shouting matches during its meetings, with MK Tibi speaking in Arabic, while MKs from the right-wing said in response that Arabs have 21 countries while the Jews only have one.
"I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy," Tibi said after the vote. "There is no doubt the nationality bill is the lowest point in the chronic illnesses that have plagued democracy. The funeral will take place today in the plenum."
"The ploys, lies, and fake news are behind us," said MK Avi Dichter, who sponsored the bill, after the vote. "I call on all members of Knesset to vote in favor of the bill. The MKs could now make history, or remain outside of it. Knesset members, both in the coalition and in the opposition, now have the ability to decide in law whether Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people."
In an effort to expedite the legislative process, the coalition has decided to give up on an amendment to article 10 of the legislation, which says: "Shabbat and Jewish holidays are determined as the days of rest in the state; those who are not Jewish have a right to have their days of rest in their Sabbath and holidays; details of this matter will be determined in law."
The coalition sought to add "or based on it" to the end of the sentence, at the request of the ultra-Orthodox parties.
The change led to 800 reservations submitted by members of the opposition, which could've delayed the approval of the legislation until the Knesset's next session.
"Since as far as we're concerned, in essence, there was no issue in adding 'or based on it,' and since the Haredi members of Knesset insist on it, I commit to pass this amendment in the next Knesset session," said MK Amsalem, the head of the coalition.
MK Maklev of UTJ explained why the Haredi parties insisted on the additional text, saying, "We received legal counsel and insisted to include the additional text. Even now, when cities pass bypass about Shabbat observance, everyone is seeking to chip away at the law that allows rest. But this law (the nationality bill) strengthens the Shabbat, since it's a Basic Law that says the Shabbat is stronger."
The committee has been painstakingly making its way through the approval of each and every article in the legislation over the past week, with the controversial article 7 passed Tuesday after understandings were reached between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett on its wording.
The amended wording that was approved says: "The state considers the development of Jewish settlement a national value and will act in order to encourage and promote the foundation and establishment of such settlement."
This wording also received the approval of legal officials.
The nationality bill proposal, sponsored by MK Avi Dichter (Likud) among others, seeks to enshrine into law the status of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
This includes legally enshrining Israel's democratic character, its state symbols, Jerusalem as the capital, Hebrew as the official language and the right of return for Diaspora Jewry.