PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Israel’s Ministers vote today on a draft law declaring the country as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”.
The bill is the most forthright of a series of legislative proposals enshrining Israel as a Jewish State. It gives the status the force of Constitutional law and specifies that Jewish law is to be a source and “inspiration” for new legislation and judicial rulings. It also says Arabic will no longer be an official language of Israel.
Two weeks ago Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni met with Professor Ruth Gavison, an expert in Israeli constitutional law, who is leading the process of translating committee recommendations into a bill. They are scheduled to meet again within a few weeks.
However, some ministers in the coalition Government are saying it is going through the motions of considering the bill — authored by right-wing Likud MK Zeev Elkin — while ensuring that it will never become law. One said:
The Cabinet ministers of the right have discovered that it is possible to kill two birds with one stone — both to support a controversial proposal in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, and also to make sure one of the moderate ministers later appeals it.
That is how they win points with their voters, while knowing there is a safety net that will prevent such proposals from being passed into law in the end.
Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have both said in the past that they will block the current version of the bill.
Several more “moderate” proposals are being discussed by a Ministerial committee recently formed by Netanyahu and Livni.
Foreign Minister Warns International Community: We Will Never Halt Settlement in East Jerusalem
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has warned the international community that Israel will never halt the settlement of Israeli Jews in mainly-Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem.
“Anyone who dreams that the government of Israel will cave and will limit building in Jerusalem is mistaken,” Liberman said as he met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He continued:
We are prepared to defend our independence and sovereignty and there will be no compromise to that stance. Any pressure to the contrary will be very counterproductive.
We will never accept any definition of building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as settlement activity. There is broad consensus for that stand among Jews in Israel and abroad.
Lieberman told Steinmeier that European foreign ministers should take Israel’s positions into account when they meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The left-wing, the center and the right-wing in Israel won’t accept that building in Ramot or Gilo or east Talpiot is settlement building,” the Foreign Minister said.
Security Guards Thwart Stabbing Attack near Old City of Jerusalem
Israeli security guards reportedly thwarted an attempted stabbing attack on Sunday morning at the Damascus Gate Light Rail Station near Jerusalem’s Old City, arresting an Arab man wielding a home-made shiv-like knife.
The attempted attack came after another violence-filled weekend in Jerusalem. On Saturday, a security guard was attacked by masked Arabs in the Mamilla Mall outside the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and Jewish homes in the area were vandalized as masked men spray-painted swastikas on them. A Light Rail Train was damaged after local residents of East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood threw stones at it, and violent protests were reported in the at-Tur neighborhood on Saturday night, with at least one Palestinian was wounded.
The Israeli military arrested a number of Palestinians from Issawiya, a predominantly-Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
In the West Bank, the Israeli mliitary and Border Police forces arrested three Palestinians overnight, including two members of Hamas’ armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. After clashes with masked Palestinians, Israeli security forces temporarily closed Highway 60 near Hebron on intelligence of a potential attack.
Tensions in Hebron are high after hundreds of right-wing religious Israelis visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a Herodian-era fortress turned mosque, which has become a synagogue for the Arab city’s small Jewish settler community since the 1967 War. While several hundred Jews live in a small cordoned-off area of Hebron near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, more than 50,000 Palestinians live in the city.