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Netanyahu wants to enact law defining Israel as a Jewish state
Thursday May 1, 2014 10:50 PM, Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, says he will seek to enact a law to define Israel as a Jewish state, a step certain to raise opposition from Arab citizens who make up a fifth of the population.

Jewish State

"I will promote a basic law that will define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people," Netanyahu said in a speech in Tel Aviv on Thursday that alluded to Palestinian rejection of his demand to recognise Israel as such in recent peace talks.

"I believe that it is appropriate that the most basic ingredient of our national life will get a constitutional status, similar to other integral ingredients which our regime is founded upon that until today were defined in the Knesset's Basic Laws."

Palestinians fear this label would lead to discrimination against Israel's sizeable Arab minority and negate any right of return of Palestinian refugees from wars since 1948, to what is now Israel.

Israeli enshrinement in law of the concept of Israel as a Jewish state - a definition that was included in its 1948 Declaration of Independence - could complicate any efforts to restart negotiations that stumbled over that issue and others.

Netanyahu, speaking in the hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948, said those seeking the creation of a Palestinian state, while refusing to recognise Israel as a Jewish nation, were challenging its right to exist.

"The state of Israel will always ensure full equality in the personal and civil rights of all its citizens - Jews and non-Jews alike - in a Jewish and democratic state," he said.

In lieu of a formal constitution, a series of basic laws adopted by parliament since Israel's founding define governmental, legislative and judicial powers, protect civil rights and codify Jerusalem's internationally disputed status as the country's capital.

Israel's basic law declaring Jerusalem, including the eastern sector captured in a 1967 war, its "eternal and indivisible capital" does not carry any punitive measures against those who oppose that declared status.

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