Bennett and Netanyahu
Bennett and Netanyahu Reuters

Following marathon negotiations between Education Minister Naftali Bennett and the ruling Likud party, a controversial clause allowing Israel to establish Jewish-only communities was softened, enabling the bill to pass its second and third Knesset readings this week and become law.

The Nationality Law, backed by the Likud-led coalition government, would establish the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in its homeland as a unique right for the Jewish people. It would also anchor the symbols of the state, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Jewish calendar as the country's official calendar, and the Hebrew language as the official language.

A previous draft of the legislation also includes a controversial section, Clause 7, which would permit the establishment of town councils to maintain the character of a particular community and bar would-be residents from other sectors of the population.

Clause 7 had been included in order to enable Israel to accelerate Jewish settlement in the Galilee and the Negev Desert, which is dominated by the Israeli-Arab community. The wording of the bill caused a firestorm, however, with many critics, including Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, arguing that could be used to discriminate against any number of religious or ethnic minority groups.

Following an uproar, the wording of the bill will be changed. According to the revised draft, "The State views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation." The updated version will be brought to the special Knesset committee tasked with formulating the Nationality Law and is expected to pass its second and third reading in the Knesset later this week.

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich attacked the softened wording on Sunday morning, alleging that the coalition had "castrated" the Nationality Law and blunted its intended purpose.

"Those who do not know how to defend the fact that the State of Israel is a Jewish state in practice should return the keys and go home. The attempts by Netanyahu and Attorney General Mandelblit to castrate the Nationality Law and empty it of practical content are one capitulation too much," said Smotrich.

According to the legislator, "Zionism has always been based on the establishment of Jewish settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel, out of recognition of the fundamental fact that where the plow passes, so do security and sovereignty. The Nationality Law was designed to correct the distortion that the Supreme Court created with the help of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which turned Zionism into the dead territory of the state and of policy.”

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