The Knesset passed a bill on July 18 that declares Israel as a Jewish nation-state, which has resulted in blowback from some Jewish groups.
The bill, passed by a margin of 62-55 with two abstentions, recognizes Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and establishes the Hebrew calendar as the country’s official calendar.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the bill as a victory for Israel and Zionism.
“Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, that respects the individual rights of all its citizens,” Netanyahu said. “This is our state — the Jewish state. In recent years there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being. Today we made it law: This is our nation, language and flag.”
Some Jewish groups have argued that the bill undercuts Zionism, alleging that the bill will ruin relations with Arabs.
“The measure downgrades Arabic from its longstanding status as one of Israel’s official languages to one that has ‘special status,’” the American Jewish Committee (AJC) said in a statement. “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.”
The AJC added that the law could result in “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,” the AJC said.