Sunday, October 10, 2010

Israel Requires Loyalty Oath to "Jewish, Democratic State"

The Israeli Cabinet has apparently approved a bill requiring non-Jewish immigrants to swear loyalty to the "Jewish, democratic state". Yep, Yisrael Beitenu managed to push it through. Not exactly going to endear them further in the Muslim world, especially when the initial effects involve, you guess it, West Bank Palestinians.

Were the bill to be passed by the Knesset, the people immediately affected would be Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who either want to marry a Palestinian-Israeli citizen or have already married and are waiting on their papers to be processed, she said.

Earlier, Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of the Knesset, told Al Jazeera that the bill was aimed at Palestinians - and not at Jewish newcomers to Israel since they already enter on Israel's Jewish Law of Return.

"Palestinians will have to say that this country is for Jews, and Palestinians are only guests. If you are saying you are democratic, you should treat citizens with equality," Tibi said.

He said that Israel was trying to impose this on the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a pre-condition for peace talks.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the PA, under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, are currently at an impasse due to Israel's refusal to extend the 10-month freeze.

Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is one of Netanyahu's principal demands in any eventual peace deal with the Palestinians...

...Palestinians have repeatedly rejected Netanyahu's condition as it would amount to an effective renunciation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

"The new citizenship law will make it impossible for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their homeland," Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said.
Theoretically, this doesn't change that much. Israel IS a Jewish Democratic state. What bothers me is that little comma there, since it implies that people have to swear to loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state in particular. Israeli Arabs are already feeling more than a little put-upon; this is only going to cement it.

And, as the AJ analyst said, this preempts one of the most important elements of any peace negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians: the question of Palestinian refugees. Requiring them to swear loyalty to the Jewish character of the state of Israel is not going to happen, not after they were pushed out in the first place. It's clearly a move to create "facts on the ground"; and the Palestinians are not going to look kindly on Israel pulling that tactic again.

Not that the negotiations are going anywhere. I'm not convinced that Netanyahu gives a damn about them in the first place. But if there's some future prime minister that is interested in peace and reconciliation, he or she is really going to have their hands tied.

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