After hours of furious debate, Knesset narrowly approve quasi-constitutional Basic Law, which critics say discriminates against Arabs and other minority communities.
“I declare with astonishment and sorrow the death of democracy . . . The funeral will take place today in the plenum.”
— Knesset member Ahmad Tibi
The Knesset overnight Wednesday passed into law the contentious nation-state bill that for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” in its quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.
Lawmakers approved the bill in its second and third readings overnight, with 62 voting in favor, 55 opposed and two abstaining, after hours of heated debate in the Knesset chamber.
Similar to a constitution, the Basic Laws underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws. The nation-state bill, proponents say, puts Jewish values and democratic values on equal footing. Critics, however, say the law effectively discriminates against Israel’s Arabs and other minority communities.
The law also declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, and recognizes Independence Day, days of remembrance and Jewish holidays. One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but also cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.” Read the full text of the law here.