World Bulletin / News Desk
The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) on Thursday approved a controversial “national law”, which Arab assembly members have blasted as “anti-democratic” and “extremist” in nature.
The law was approved -- in both its second and third readings -- by a vote of 62 to 55 in a tumultuous Knesset session in which Arab lawmakers slammed what they described as “Israeli racism against the Arab minority”.
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the law “officially defines Israel as the ‘national homeland of the Jewish people’.”
It further states that a “united Jerusalem” is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country's official language, stripping Arabic of its earlier designation as an official language but recognizing its “special status”.
The legislation’s most controversial article, however, which would have paved the way for the creation of “Jewish-only” communities in Israel, was removed from the draft before the vote.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed the legislation, describing its adoption by the Knesset as a “defining moment for Zionism and Israel”.
“One hundred and twenty-two years after [Zionist leader Theodore] Herzl articulated his vision, we have, with this law, determined the basic principle of our existence,” he said.
Netanyahu went on to describe Israel as the only country in the Middle East that “respects and honors the rights of its people”.