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Storm brews over Netanyahu's ‘nation state’ law

    Prime Minister Netanyahu (Photo: AP)
    Prime Minister Netanyahu (Photo: AP)

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to create a new Basic Law defining Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is causing a major political row.

    In the absence of a constitution, Basic Laws make up the foundations of legislation in Israel.

    Mr Netanyahu launched his plan during a visit to the Independence House in Tel Aviv, where David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the state in 1948.

    While connecting the proposal to the Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, he stressed that the new law would not infringe in any way on the rights of non-Jewish minorities.

    In his speech in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Mr Netanyahu said: “We have seen recently that there those who do not recognise our national right… I see it as one of my basic missions as prime minister to reinforce Israel’s status as the nation state of our people.”

    It is unclear at this stage when the prime minister intends to introduce the new law or how it will be drafted.

    There is currently a similar proposal in the works that has been introduced by Likud and Habayit Hayehudi MKs, while there are also plans to commission Hebrew University Professor Ruth Gavison to write the law.

    One of the main issues will be the way in which the new law will be interpreted by the courts and whether it will clearly state that in cases where Israel’s Jewish and democratic values are in contradiction, the considerations over identity should prevail.

    The new law is far from assured a majority in the Knesset. The left-wing and Arab parties are certain to oppose a law that, in their eyes, erodes Israel’s democratic nature.

    The Charedi parties are traditionally opposed to Basic Laws, as they view any form of an Israeli constitution as contradicting the supremacy of the Torah.

    Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni has said: “Under no circumstances will we allow to harm, weaken or subordinate the democratic values to Jewish values.”

    As Justice Minister, Ms Livni can block any new law. An alternative which could be more palatable to the Zionist parties of the centre-left would be to accord Israel’s Declaration of Independence the status of a Basic Law, since it includes a clear commitment both to the state’s Jewish nature and its democratic principles.

    Mr Cohen’s lawyer, Agnes Tricoire, told the media that the rooster, named Franck, was not harmed during the performance and was now living a “totally happy life in Normandy”.

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