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Israel approves loyalty oath

Sunday, October 10, 2010 10:37:40 PM, Agencies

Jerusalem: The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved a bill requiring new immigrants to pledge loyalty to the "Jewish and democratic" state. The language has triggered charges of racism from Arab politicians who see it as undermining the rights of the country's Arab minority.

The bill is backed by Yisrael Beitenu, an ultra-nationalist party whose leader, Avigdor Lieberman, has been a vocal critic of Israel's settlement freeze.

Sunday's vote may be a way to soften Lieberman's opposition to extending the slowdown, though officials have denied there is any connection.

 

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister while expressing support for the proposal before the vote, said, "The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish people, and it is a democratic state for all its citizenship."

"There is no other democracy in the Middle East. There is no other Jewish state in the world. Unfortunately, there are many today who tried to blur not only the unique connection of the Jewish people to its homeland, but also the connection of the Jewish people to its state."

Although the Labour party is part of the ruling coalition in Netanyahu's government, the Israeli left has voiced significant opposition to the new citizenship bill.

"There is a whiff of fascism on the margins of Israeli society," Isaac Herzog, the social affairs minister, who belongs to Labour, told army radio on Sunday.

"There have been a tsunami of measures that limit rights ... I see it in the halls of the Knesset [parliament], in the commissions and departments responsible for legislation."

 

It has raised tensions with Palestinians at a time when peace talks are deadlocked over Israel's refusal to extend a moratorium on new building in West Bank Jewish settlements.

Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of the Knesset, told Al Jazeera that the bill is aimed at Palestinians - and not at Jewish newcomers to Israel - since they already enter on Israel's Jewish Law of Return.

"Palestinians will have to say that this country is for Jews, and Palestinians are only guests. If you are saying you are democratic, you should treat citizens with equality," Tibi said.

He said that Israel was trying to impose this on the Palestinian Authority as a pre-condition for peace talks.

"The law will make it impossible for the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their homeland," Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said.

"That's why such a law also preempts the final status negotiations...Palestinian refugees cannot vow allegiance to the legitimacy of a Jewish state; that's de facto vowing allegiance to the Zionism that dispossessed them."
 

 

 

 

 

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