Israel ministers seek changes after Jewish nation law outcry | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 27, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, July 27, 2018

Israel ministers seek changes after Jewish nation law outcry

Two key ministers have called for changes to a deeply controversial law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people after a backlash and a court challenge from the Druze minority.

Opponents have called the law "racist" as it makes no mention of equality and Israel's democratic character, implying that the country's Jewish nature comes first.

Members of Israel's 130,000-strong Druze community -- many of whom willingly serve in the police and military -- have been among those strongly denouncing the law.

Community leaders have filed a court challenge to the law, given final passage in the middle of the night on July 19. It becomes part of Israel's so-called basic laws, a de facto constitution.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon called for changes in response to the concerns of Druze, saying the law had been "passed in haste."

"The last thing that we want is to harm the Druze community," Kahlon, whose Kulanu party is the second largest in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition, told army radio.

His comments followed similar ones on Wednesday by Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party.

Bennett, who was a prominent advocate for the law, said he had now realised damage was done, adding that the Druze were "our brothers who stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the battlefield".

"We, the government of Israel, have a responsibility to find a way to heal the rift," he said.

Druze lawmakers were expected to meet Netanyahu, Kahlon and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the issue later yesterday.

Druze leaders are also planning a demonstration against the law in central Tel Aviv on August 4.

The Druze are an offshoot of Shia Islam. Officials say there are 110,000 of them in northern Israel and another 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The legislation makes Hebrew the country's national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only special status.

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