Knesset considering bill affirming Israel as ‘Jewish state’

(JTA) – The Knesset is considering a bill that would enshrine in Israel’s Basic Laws a definition of the country as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.

Avi Dichter of the Kadima Party and Zeev Elkin of Likud introduced the bill Wednesday and have received 42 supporting signatures. The measure needs 61 votes to be signed into law.

In a section that has garnered controversy, the bill aims to elevate Hebrew to the only formal language of Israel. Arabic would be afforded a “special status” in the country.

In addition, the legislation will grant “constitutional status to State symbols, national holidays, the flag and the national anthem.” It also confirms the State of Israel as having a democratic government. 

If the bill passes it will become Israel’s eighth basic law. Israel, which has no formal constitution, uses basic laws as a way to legislate government issues and civil rights.

"Cementing issues that seem basic in a basic law has become doubly important these days, when there are those who wish to annul the Jewish people’s right to have a national home in their own country," Dichter said.

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