Druze leaders to continue protests over Nationality Law
Following announcement that Druze community accepted PM Netanyahu's proposal to allay fears over recently-passed Nationality Law, community leaders say they will continue negotiations and will not withdraw High Court petition; rally in solidarity with Druze community to be held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
The proposed legislation would commit Israel to recognize the contribution of the Druze community to the state.
During an urgent meeting held on Thursday in Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, Druze leaders decided to continue negotiations on the issue and not to withdraw a petition filed to the High Court of Justice against the Nationality Law.
In addition, a rally in solidarity with the Druze community is expected to be held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday night.
Most of the meeting’s participants, which included several MKs and local government officials, objected to Netanyahu's proposal and stressed their commitment to continue the fight for the community’s rights.
"The government's duty is to provide the residents with services and to solve the housing and education problems, regardless of the Nationality Law," they said in a statement.
Nevertheless, the Druze community leaders thanked the prime minister "for the tremendous efforts he invested to enshrine into law the Druze's status in the State of Israel. A window of opportunity for a historic precedent has been created to elevate the status of the Druze community."
They also stressed their intention to continue the discussions on the matter with the prime minister's team in order to formulate an official document based on the principle elements of Netanyahu’s proposal and noted that the issue of Druze IDF service should not be part of the public debate.
Brig. Gen. Amal Asad, one of the leaders of the current fight, addressed the prime minister’s proposal, labeling it as humiliating.
"The prime minister … offered the Druze community to stop protesting against their humiliation last week. Instead, he proposes another humiliating offer … the main purpose of which is to provide benefits to the community and to individuals serving in the IDF in return for their contribution. In other words, the outline proposed by the prime minister is essentially a contract for a professional army, with undefined benefits and promises, which are just as reliable as the prime minister’s reputation,” he vented.
The proposal formulated by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team was initially described as historic. “It reflects a change in the legal status of Israel’s minority communities serving in the IDF, especially the Druze,” said an official statement.
The components of the plan's outline are as follows:
1. Anchoring in law the status of the Druze and Circassian communities. The law will esteem the contribution of the Druze community to the State of Israel in building up the country, strengthening security and fashioning the face of Israeli society as an equal and varied society, and will include support for community religious, cultural and educational institutions; the strengthening of Druze towns and villages, including solutions for residential construction, and the establishment of new communities as necessary; and the preservation of the Druze heritage.
2. Anchoring in law the eligibility for benefits of minority community members—of all faiths and communities—who serve in the security forces, to achieve social equality.
3. Anchoring in a basic law recognition of the contribution of those—of all faiths and communities, including the Druze—who take part in the defense of the state.
4. The Deputy Director General of the Prime Minister's Office announced the establishment of a ministerial committee, chaired by Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the issue of the Druze community which will work—inter alia—to advance the outline and oversee its implementation.
5. The details of the outline will be formulated and written in 45 days, within the framework of a joint team that includes government officials and representatives of the Druze community, all subject to the provisions of the law, and to the approval of the Attorney General. Legislative actions will commence immediately upon the convening of the Knesset's in the next winter session.
The High Court of Justice petition against the Nationality Law, was submitted by MK Akram Hasson (Kulanu) MK Salah Sa'ad (the Zionist Union) and MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu).
MK Akram Hasson said on Wednesday that the outlined proposal is a historic move.
“We passed the proposal to our lawyer and he deemed it acceptable. For our point of view, this is a historic plan,” said MK Akram Hasson. “It removes the feeling of ranking citizens of class A and B citizens. It enables us to be proud and equal citizens with our people in our homeland. All we wanted was to be one nation in one state.”
The plan, Hasson continued, provides “a solution to all the problems and we will begin to feel equal and we have no interest in continuing the protest. There is light at the end of this tunnel.”
MK Amar also praised the proposal, saying that for the first time, his “Israeliness” will be enshrined in law.
“The proposal is acceptable in my eyes. The only thing that motivates me is the good of the Druze.
Since the passing of the contentious law, minority communities in Israel have been calling to amend several controversial articles in it.
The Nationality Law also states that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and that Hebrew is the official language of the state. Arabic, spoken by the Druze community, was downgraded as an official language and defined as having a special status, with the official state use of Arabic to be determined in separate legislation.