lsraeli Cabinet Approves Controversial Loyalty Oath
The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved a controversial bill which would compel all new citizens to swear allegiance to Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state," a government statement said.
Twenty-two ministers voted in favor of the proposal, which must still wwin the approval of parliament before becoming law, including most of Likud, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu. Eight ministers were opposed, five of them from the Labor Party and three of them - Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan - from Likud.
Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the divided cabinet spent hours deliberating Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman's proposed amendment to the Law of Citizenship. Amid the debate on the matter, Ne'eman himself suggested changing the wording of the draft to apply to Jews and non-Jews alike.
Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak said Sunday that he would vote against the proposal unless the cabinet agreed to include in the draft an allusion to Israel's so-called Declaration of Independence.
Neither of those amendments was included in the final draft passed by cabinet.
As the cabinet began its deliberations on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his support for the proposal. "The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish people and it is a democratic state for all its citizenship," he claimed. "Jews and non-Jews enjoy equality and full rights."
"Democracy is the soul of Israel and we cannot do without it. No one can preach democracy or enlightenment to us," Netanyahu said. "Zionism established an exemplary national state, a state that balances between the national needs of our people and the individual rights or every citizen in the country."
"There is no other democracy in the Middle East," he claimed. "There is no other Jewish state in the world. The combination of these two lofty values expresses the foundation of our national life and anyone who would like to join us needs to recognize this," he went on to claim.