Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly defended the new Jewish Nation-State Basic Law that was voted in last week. The law has come under heavy criticism from the left and Israeli-Arabs.
Netanyahu made his remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting:
“The State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, with full equal rights for all of its citizens. This is the meaning of the words ‘a Jewish and democratic state’.”
We have determined the personal equal rights of Israeli citizens in a series of laws including Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, laws that ensure full equality before the law, beginning with the right to vote and be elected to the Knesset and ending with all other personal rights in the State of Israel.
However, we have never determined the national rights of the Jewish People in its land in a basic law – until now, when we passed the Nation-State Law. What is the meaning of national rights? They define the flag, the national anthem, the language and, of course, the fact that one of the basic goals of the state is the ingathering of exiles of our people and their absorption here in the land of Israel. This is the meaning of the Zionist vision.
Does determining that our flag bears the Star of David somehow abrogate the individual right of anyone among Israel’s citizens? Nonsense, but determining this ensures that there will not be another flag. Does determining that Hatikvah is our national anthem detract from the personal rights of any person in Israel? Nonsense, but it does determine that there will not be another anthem. Already there are proposals to replace the flag and the anthem in the name of equality, as it were. There is opposition to the idea of a nation-state in many countries, but first of all in the State of Israel, something that undermines the foundation of our existence, and therefore, the attacks emanating from left-wing circles that define themselves as Zionist are absurd and expose the nadir to which the left has sunk.
Now, I would like to quote from the basic principles of the Nation-State Law. The first clause: ‘The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.’ The second clause: ‘The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.’ The third clause: ‘The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.’ The Nation-State law goes on to anchor in basic legislation our flag, our national anthem, the symbols of the state and that Jerusalem is our eternal capital. Would the fathers of Zionism not sign it?
Over decades the opposition has preached to us that we must withdraw to the 1967 lines in order to ensure that Israel remains the national state of the Jewish people in which there is a Jewish majority in the state. Then suddenly when we pass a basic law to ensure exactly this, the left cries out in protest? What hypocrisy.
The Israeli left must search within itself. It needs to ask itself why the basic term of Zionism, ‘a Jewish national state of the Jewish people in its land’, has become a rude term for it, a rude word, a principle that one should be ashamed of. We are not ashamed of Zionism. We are proud of our state, that it is a national home for the Jewish people, which strictly upholds – in a manner that is without peer – the individual rights of all its citizens.
As opposed to the infuriating words that we hear from left-wing spokespersons, the result of which is the taunting of the Jewish state, the feelings of our Druze brothers and sisters touch my heart. I want to tell them: There is nothing in this law that infringes on your rights as equal citizens of the State of Israel, and there is nothing in it that harms the special status of the Druze community in Israel. The people of Israel, and I among them, love and appreciate you. We very much esteem the partnership and the covenant between us.
I am aware of the feelings coming from the community. Therefore, I met with the head of the community and I will continue this dialogue today as well, in order to find solutions that will meet the concerns and give expression to the special partnership between us. I promise you that this partnership of fate will only strengthen.”