The Israeli Cabinet passed a law Sunday requiring all non-Jewish applicants for citizenship to take a ‘loyalty oath’ confirming their support for Israel’s ‘Jewish character’ as a state. A number of prominent lawmakers, including former candidate for Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, have come out against the controversial law, saying that it defines Israel as a theocratic state and undermines democracy.Palestinian-Israeli members of the Knesset spoke vehemently against the law. MK (Member of the Knesset) Ahmed Tibi told reporters, ‘The government of Israel has become subservient to Yisrael Beiteinu and its fascist doctrine. No other state in the world would force its citizens or those seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to an ideology.’
Another Palestinian-Israeli Knesset Member, Talab al-Sana said the new law ‘will cause the exclusion of 20 percent of the country’s citizens… [It] will situate Israel as the successor of Apartheid-era South Africa.’
The law was proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who stated, ‘There is no other democracy in the Middle East. There is no other Jewish state in the world. The combination of these two exulted values, a Jewish state and a democratic state, expresses the core of our existence and the essence of the state of Israel and whoever wants to join us must acknowledge this.’
People who will be required to take the loyalty oath include non-Jewish spouses of Israeli citizens and non-Jews seeking refugee status in Israel.
Twenty percent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish, with the majority of that number being indigenous Palestinians who remained inside the borders of what is now Israel when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled to refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan when Israel was created on Palestinian land in 1948.
But that percentage is growing, as Jewish immigration into Israel slows and the birth rate among Palestinian-Israelis far exceeds that of Jewish Israelis. This trend led now-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to call Palestinian-Israelis a ‘demographic threat’ and openly advocate for their expulsion from the Jewish state.
Supporters of the law made no secret of the fact that they wish to target Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship with the new ‘loyalty oath’ law.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai specifically referenced Palestinian-Israeli Knesset Members Azmi Bishara and Hanin Zoabi as potential targets of the new law, adding, ‘Anyone who betrays the state will lose his citizenship.’
Labor Party Knesset Member Isaac Herzog said that the new law indicates that Israel is on a slippery slope toward fascism.