Controversial Law Will Force Non-Jewish Citizens to Pledge an Oath of Loyalty

Overnight, Israel’s cabinet backed a controversial law that will force non-Jewish citizens to pledge an oath of loyalty to the country as a Jewish state.

Israel is under intense international pressure to reinstate the freeze which expired last month to salvage the latest peace talks but can't do so without the support of the same right wing ministers.

Eleanor Hall | abc.net.au

The measure has not yet passed the Parliament but political watchers say the Prime Minster could be using it as a way of courting support from his conservative coalition partners on the settlement freeze which is threatening the peace talks with the Palestinians.

But opponents of the bill say it is racist and would diminish the rights of Arab Israelis.

Middle East correspondent Anne Barker reports.

ANNE BARKER: It’s a move that has outraged Arab Israelis who make up more than 20 per cent of Israel’s population.

The very notion that they or future Arab citizens should have to pledge an oath of loyalty to a Jewish state – as opposed to just Israel – is something they say is racist and would only undermine their democratic rights.

But 22 of the 30 Ministers who make up the Israeli Cabinet voted in support and for Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz it’s a fair request.

DANIEL HERSHKOWITZ: I think that since we definitely define the state of Israel as a Jewish state and a democratic state, it is just natural that everyone who wants to become a citizen should sign a statement.

ANNE BARKER: Many of those who backed the plan are from the far right parties that helped Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud Party secure government.

In fact the loyalty oath was a central election policy of hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who leads the ultra-nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu – or Israel Our Home – the key coalition partner.

And now, even the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken in favour.

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