Israeli cabinet to consider loyalty oath for citizens – including Arabs
On Sunday, Netanyahu's government votes on two bills designed to shore up support for Israel as a Jewish state.
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"Both of them are calling for the immediate destruction of the state of Israel," says Tsach Saar, a spokesman for Alex Miller, the parliament member who introduced the nakba law.Skip to next paragraph
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"I don't know any democratic country that would allow the existence of such an absurdity. We are raising the issue of how the people in Israel are grappling with the phenomenon of a lack of loyalty to the state alongside the enjoyment of equal rights."
Israeli Arabs' fear: second-class citizenship in Jewish state
The draft legislation for a loyalty oath proposes requiring citizens to declare "loyalty to the State of Israel as a state that is Jewish, Zionist, and democratic, to its symbols and values" and promise to fulfill national service requirements before receiving identification cards issued by the Interior Ministry. The proposal to ban nakba observances suggests a three-year jail term for public expressions of "mourning" on Israeli Independence Day.
The bills come at a time when the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under increasing pressure abroad to resume negotiations on creating a Palestinian state and to rein in settlement expansion.
As a precondition to negotiations with the Palestinians, Mr. Netanyahu wants them to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a move which Israeli Arab citizens fear will enshrine them as second-class citizens.
Arab leaders argue that the threat of disenfranchisement is meant to spur violence and ultimately force them to emigrate.
"They want to complicate the Jewish-Arab relationship inside of Israel to prevent any progress in the peace negotiations. They want to prove that the Arabs don't want to live with the Jews and there is no chance for reconciliation," says Jafar Farah, the director of Mossawa, an Arab Israeli civil rights group.
"There are two alternative visions that the Jews in Israel have to decide between: of isolation and wars and ghetto, or of a vision of peace and coexistence," adds Mr. Farah, who held meetings with a delegation of US congressmen at the Knesset on Wednesday. "And if they decide for peace and coexistence, they should start with us."
Israeli Arab support for violence has tripled since 2003
The friction appears to be affecting Arab public opinion, according to a recent Haifa University study. Only 41 percent now recognize Israel's right to be a Jewish and democratic state, compared with 66 percent in 2003. Even more troubling: Some 13 percent of Israeli Arabs said they support the use of violence to improve their lives – almost triple the percentage from 2003.
Yisrael Beytenu Knesset member David Rotem, the sponsor of the loyalty-oath law and the chair of the parliament's constitution and law committee, told Israel's Arutz Sheva news service that the poll is evidence of the "bottomless hatred toward the Jewish people of a large part of Arab Israelis.... We must wake up and smell the coffee and take action immediately."
The right-wing offensive is helping efforts by Arab leaders inside Israel to lobby foreign diplomats, nongovernmental groups, and even diaspora Jews to pressure Israel for more equality. Arab leaders in Israel say they also have claims regarding land loss and displacement that should be addressed at the peace table with Palestinians.
"The Arab public at large feels the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved without taking the Arab Israelis into consideration," says Sammy Smooha, a sociologist who conducted the Haifa University poll. "This is an internationalization of the Israeli-Arab issue. Lieberman is contributing in his own way."