Livni: 'Government is tearing up the Declaration of Independence'
While the legislature was holding a special meeting on the Nationality Law at the request of the opposition, protesters in the guest gallery hold up copies of the Declaration of Independence, with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein calls the protest 'a disgrace.'
Edelstein demanded all the protesters from Women Wage Peace to be removed from the plenum.
While the Knesset is currently on its summer hiatus, it convened for the special discussion initiated by the opposition, which had to get 25 MKs' signatures to hold the meeting.
Only five members of the coaliton showed up for the discussion, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu notably absent.
Newly-appointed opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni, who opened the discussion, apologized to members of the Druze community "not just for the problematic and discriminatory law, but for the fact that he (Netanyahu) didn't bother showing up here for the discussion, to talk, to stand here and give the answers he owes not just you, the Druze community, but to the entire State of Israel," Livni said.
"The real question is who is for and who is against the Declaration of Independence, and why is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the Declaration of Independence? The government is tearing up the Declaration of Independence and with it, the entire nation," Livni asserted.
To the coalition, she said in contempt, "The rules of the game have changed. If you think you could keep calling us traitors and win the elections that way—this has ended."
MK Ahmad Tibi lamented the fact that "citizens who have everything are raised above other groups, a collective with a high status, and below that is everyone who isn't Jewish and has no rights."
"There is only one mention of Arabs in this law, and it's negative—canceling the status of the Arabic language," he vented.
He slammed Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's Kulanu Party, saying the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, had agreed to change the article about the Arabic language, but it was Kulanu that objected.
"Roy Folkman jumped up like a snake and told me, 'I don't steal votes, there's a commitment by the coalition,'" Tibi said.
"Citizenship has never been conditioned on military service or on one budget or another. Not on death nor sacrifice. A citizen is a citizen, it's a treaty between the state and its citizens," he added.
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid wondered, "Mr. Prime Minister, what happened to your values? You're eroding one value after another. We stood in front of our Druze friends and saw how you erode the value of friendship, and now with the IDF draft law—the value of shared responsibility."
"This Nationality Law is a big missed opportunity; we could've gone together with a law written by Benny Begin from the Likud Party. You want us to be divided," Lapid charged.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Minister Ze'ev Elkin criticized Livni and Lapid who "are not in the plenum right now. Are they incapable of sitting here for two hours? You invited the government."
His comments were met with shouting from the opposition, with MKs wondering "Where's Bibi?" using the prime minister's nickname.
"I think this is a disgrace of the Knesset, it's not serious to make grand statements and then not survive two hours of a discussion," Elkin responded.
He asserted that "Livni does owe a big apology (to the Druze community), because if you check where the (Nationality) law was born, you'd find it came to be in 2011 from the party MK Livni was heading. I'm holding the first draft of the Nationality Law, which was submitted in 2011. You know who co-signed the proposal along with (MK Avi) Dichter and me? 20 MKs from the Kadima party."
Earlier this week, the special committee formed to find a resolution to the crisis with the Druze community over the Nationality Law convened for the first time, with only five of the 13 ministers assigned to the committee showing up.
"We continue to ask and demand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to enshrine the status of the Druze community in law, so we can have full equal rights and equal citizenship, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence," a representative of the Druze community said.
"At the same time, we will continue studying the principles of the proposed outline to achieve civil equality to the Druze community."
On Saturday night, more than 90,000 members of the Druze community and their supporters gathered at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to hold a rally against the Nationality Law.