Israeli parliament to vote on contentious Nation State bill

The issue is the latest source of tension between Israel and Turkey one of the Jewish state's few key Muslim partners

Israel's parliament on Thursday adopted a law defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it will lead to blatant discrimination against its Palestinian citizens.

If passed, the bill will likely face a Supreme Court challenge.

It also reiterates the status of Jerusalem under Israeli law, which defines the city - part of which is claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state - as the "complete and united. capital of Israel". Around 20 per cent of Israel's population is Arab.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat tweeted from a Palestine Liberation Organization account that the law "officially legalizes apartheid and legally defines Israel as an apartheid system".

The "Jewish nation-state" bill states that advancing Jewish settlements is a national interest, and downgrades Arabs by removing Arabic as an official language of the country.

The new law - approved in an overnight vote by a 62-55 margin - says, "Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it".

The question of Israel's status as a Jewish state is politically controversial and has always been debated.

The bill also revokes Arabic of its status as an official language alongside Hebrew in Israel.

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Arab MP Ahmed Tibi said the bill's passing represented the "death of democracy".

But opponents to the law say it marginalises the country's Arab minority.

Last week, Netanyahu defended the law, saying: "We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel's democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides". "Passage of this bill was vital to ensure the continuity of the connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and publicly pronouncing that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people is an essential legislative act that is long overdue".

Hassan Jabareen, the director general of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said that the law had key elements of apartheid, which is prohibited under global law.

"While the democratic State of Israel facilitates freedom of religion and affords people of various backgrounds the right to visit and reside there, the reality is that Israel is inherently a Jewish state and affirming that fact does not contravene the liberties that it benevolently bestows to individuals of other faiths", the group said in a statement.

They are descendants of the indigenous Arab population who stayed put during Israel's violent creation in 1948. Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes or fled.

"I think this is racist legislation by a radical right-wing government that is creating radical laws, and is planting the seeds to create an apartheid state", said physician Bassam Bisharah, 71. The law stands to justify the difference between the realization of basic rights between Jews and non-Jews as a legitimate distinction and not as an invalid discrimination.

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