July 18, 2018 — New York
AJC is deeply disappointed that the Israeli Knesset, with the active support of Prime Minister Netanyahu, adopted today the controversial nation-state bill. The measure passed the 120-member Knesset by a vote of 62 to 55, with two abstaining. It will become Israel’s 15th Basic Law.
That Israel is indeed the Jewish state and its main symbols, including the flag and national anthem, are distinctly Jewish, are well-established facts, which, in our view, as steadfast friends of Israel, make this kind of law unnecessary.
Many American Jews, as well as other Diaspora Jews around the world, are enormously grateful that Jewish self-determination has been reborn in Israel, and are proud that Israelis have created a vibrant democracy in which all citizens, as promised in the Declaration of Independence, are protected and can aspire to full participation in Israeli society.
However, two elements of this new Basic Law put at risk the commitment of Israel’s founders to build a country that is both Jewish and democratic.
First, the measure downgrades Arabic from its longstanding status as one of Israel’s official languages to one that has “special status.” This not only directly affects the 21 percent of Israel’s citizens who comprise the country’s largest minority, but it also would appear to work against the government’s ongoing efforts to encourage the use of Arabic, given Israel’s location in the Middle East.
Second, the clause in the bill saying, “the state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation” could be read as a euphemism for the originally proposed endorsement of support for Jewish-only communities in Israel.
We respectfully ask the Government of Israel to clarify these and other questionable elements of the bill, and to reaffirm the core principles and values that make up the very foundation of Israel’s vibrant and admired democracy.