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Israeli cabinet pushes to make country 'Jewish state' by law

Israeli cabinet pushes to make country Jewish state by law

Jerusalem: The Israeli cabinet approved a bill Sunday, which enshrines in law that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people and that this right is unique to them.

Fifteen ministers voted in favour of the bill and seven against it, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, according to a spokesperson for the prime minister's office, a Xinhua report said.

The bill reinforces state symbols (like the flag and the anthem) as "national Jewish rights" and states that Hebrew is the official language of the country, while Arabic only has a "special status".

It thus elevates the Jewish status over the democratic status of the state and says that the Jewish character will be more important in interpreting the law than the democratic character of the state.

The bill adds that the government will work to settle Jews within its territory, without mentioning its Arab citizens.

Arab civilians in Israel constitute 20 percent of the country's population.

The country's cabinet has approved the bill at a time of rising tensions between Jews, Arab Israelis and Palestinians in recent months, with clashes and violent attacks taking place mainly in Jerusalem and also in other parts of the country.

"Israel has equal individual rights for every citizen and we insist on this. But only the Jewish people have national rights: a flag, anthem and the right of every Jew to immigrate to the country. These are granted only to our people, in its one and only state," the Prime Minister Netanyahu said before the vote, according to a statement from his office.

The discussions were closed to the press, but there were heated arguments between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Xinhua reported, citing Israeli media outlets.

Now that the government has decided to adopt the proposal, the bill is set to be voted on in the Knesset (parliament) Wednesday in a preliminary vote.

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