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Statement from the New Israel Fund

1 December 2014


RE: “Jewish Nation-State Bill”

The New Israel Fund opposes the passage of the Jewish nation-state bill, in all its iterations, now in process through the Knesset, as it will undermine the principle for equal rights for citizens of the state as well as harm the delicate fabric of life in Israel. Israel’s Declaration of Independence clearly asserts that Israel is both the Jewish homeland and a democracy that confers equal rights on all its citizens – no further legislation is necessary.

At a time when Jewish-Arab relations in Israel are particularly difficult, this proposed Basic Law would damage the democratic nature of the state by creating a precedent whereby Jews could be legally favored over non-Jews. Potentially, this new Basic Law would provide for the establishment of two tiers of Israeli citizenship, one for Jewish citizens and one for everyone else. Additionally, this legislation allows for the possibility of allowing Jewish religious law to influence legislation and court decisions. This violates fundamental democratic principles regarding religious pluralism and freedom of religion for Jewish and non-Jewish Israelis alike.

We are heartened by the broad-based opposition to the legislation by President Rivlin, centrists, some nationalists, progressives, religious and secular, as well as the expressed opposition of dozens of legal experts, political scientists and the US State Department. The ‘Jewish Nation-State’ bill is the latest in a number of recent attempts to weaken Israeli democracy. We urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to withdraw his support for this ill-timed and dangerous attempt to change the nature of the State of Israel.

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