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Knesset leaders discard bill to bar Arabs from premiership

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JERUSALEM, Feb. 4 (JTA) — A controversial proposal to bar Israeli Arabs from running for prime minister has been thrown out of the Knesset. Knesset speaker Dan Tichon of the Likud and five of the seven deputy speakers ruled this week that the proposed bill would violate laws against racist legislation and therefore will not be brought before the plenum for a vote. The two deputy speakers who voted in favor of presenting the bill were David Tal of Shas and Haim Dayan of Tsomet. The initiative, which was sponsored by Gesher Knesset member Michael Kleiner, drew sharp protests from Arab Knesset members and others in the opposition. “This is not a proposal appropriate for an enlightened country,” Labor Knesset member Shlomo Ben-Ami told Israel Radio. “It is unlikely that an Arab would ever become prime minister, but the right to run and to vote in elections is a fundamental one.” In December, Azmi Beshara, an Israeli Arab Knesset member, declared his intention to run for prime minister in the next Israeli elections. He admitted at the time that he had little chance of winning, but that his candidacy would advance the interests of Israel’s Arab citizens. Kleiner defended his bill, saying that it was logical that the Jewish state have a Jewish leader.

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