Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told Likud ministers he expected them to express ”unreserved and unapologetic” support for the controversial nation-state law.
”The Jewish nation-state is the basis of our existence,” Netanyahu said. ”There is constant defiance against the nation-state law and the discourse is very one-sided. Discussions in media panels are shallow. Don’t be apologetic – fight for the truth,” he urged.
Though largely symbolic, the contentious legislation, which states that ”Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it,” has been lambasted by Arab lawmakers as ”racist,” and discriminatory against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, which make up a substantial percentage of the population.
The Druze, a unique religious and ethnic minority among Israeli Arabs, were particularly outraged by the legislation, as most Druze men serve in the Israel Defense Forces and members of the community serve in top positions in Israeli politics and public service.
Several Druze leaders, including three Knesset members, petitioned the High Court of Justice against the law, saying it was an “extreme act of discrimination” against the country’s minorities.
Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Druze leaders on Sunday to hear their grievances and allay their concerns.
”We are talking with Druze leaders and today I will meet with their mayors,” he said, adding that in a meeting last week it was agreed to promote legislation that would further ease Druze integration into Israeli society, especially in the workforce.
”Israeli citizens’ individual rights have been cemented in a number of laws, including Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. These laws guarantee full equality before the law, from the right to vote and be elected to the Knesset to any other individual right in the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said ahead of the cabinet’s weekly meeting on Sunday.
”On the other hand, we have never enshrined the national rights of the Jewish people in our land in a basic law until now that we’ve enacted the nation-state law. What do ‘national rights’ mean? They define the nature of the flag, the anthem, the language and, of course, the fact one of the fundamental objectives of the state is the ingathering of the exiles here, in the land of Israel, which is the essence of the Zionist vision.”
Criticizing the law’s detractors, Netanyahu said, ”Does the determination that our flag bears the Star of David somehow invalidates the individual rights of any Israeli citizen? Nonsense. This statement does, however, ensure that there will be no other flag. Does the statement that ‘Hatikvah’ is our national anthem detract from the individual rights of anyone in Israel? Nonsense, it simply cements the fact that there will be no other anthem.
”There is already a proposal to replace the flag and the anthem in the name of so-called equality. Many countries are dealing with defiance against the concept of nationality, but in Israel, this undermines our very existence. For this reason, the attacks by the Left, which calls itself Zionist, are absurd and reveal the lows to which the Left has sunk,” Netanyahu said.
”For decades, the opposition has been preaching to us that we should withdraw to the 1967 lines in order to ensure that Israel will be the nation-state of the Jewish people, with a Jewish majority in the country. Now, when we legislate the nation-state law, a basic law that ensures exactly this, the Left decries it? What hypocrisy,” he said.
”The Israeli Left has some soul-searching to do,” he continued. “It must ask itself why the basic concept of Zionism – a Jewish nation-state in the [Jewish] homeland – has become something to be ashamed of. We are proud of our country being the national home of the Jewish people, a country that meticulously observe the individual rights of all its citizens.”
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev also called on the Druze community to support the law.
Taking to Facebook, she wrote, “You, of all people – you who have been deeply loyal to the State of Israel for decades – should not be fooled by the radical Left. Don’t buy their media spin. Read the actual law.”
”This law doesn’t discriminate against you. You remain equal citizens in the Jewish state, which, as you well know, has nothing but respect for its citizens and especially for its loyal Druze minority,” Regev wrote.
The nation-state law, she continued, “doesn’t violate your civil rights or anyone else’s rights – Christian, Muslim, Bedouin or Circassian. These rights are also enshrined in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.”
”All this basic law seeks to do is complement other basic laws and clarify – to us and to the judiciary, which seems to have forgotten, and to the entire world – that from a national level there is no equality,” she wrote. “Israel has and always will be a Jewish state, whose flag bears the Star of David, whose language is Hebrew, and whose capital is and will forever be the united city of Jerusalem. You are equal and respected citizens in this country.”
Slamming the law’s opponents, Regev wrote that ”those who participate in the well-publicized campaign against this law have never read it in full or are part of the attempts to undermine Israel’s Jewish character. This will fail and it only proves how much this law was necessary.”
By Mati Tuchfeld