New law would define Israel as belonging to a global Jewish nation rather than its citizens, ending any pretence it is a liberal democracy, say experts
As Israeli legislators returned to parliament this week, ending the long summer recess, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government announced a packed agenda of reforms designed to push Israel yet further to the right.
Legislative proposals include weakening the supreme court’s powers of judicial review, cracking down on left-wing civil-society organisations, expanding Jerusalem’s boundaries to include more Jewish settlements, and allowing the forcible deportation of mainly African asylum seekers.
But none is likely to prove as controversial – or gain as much attention – as a measure concerning Israel’s status as a Jewish state.
This long-gestating bill is intended to join 11 existing Basic Laws, Israel’s equivalent of a constitution. Netanyahu appears to be basing his wider legislative assault on the success of the proposed Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish people.
Its purpose is to give a constitutional-like standing to Israel’s definition as a state that belongs not to its citizens – as is the case in a liberal democracy – but to all Jews around the world, including those with no connection to Israel.
Additionally, the bill is expected to downgrade the status of Arabic, the mother tongue of a fifth of Israel’s population. It will also require the Israeli courts to give due weight in…