Netanyahu wants law defining Israel as Jewish state

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will seek a law that would officially make Israel the national state of the Jewish people.

“The Declaration of Independence sets, as the cornerstone in the life of the state, the national Jewish identity of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Thursday during a visit to Independence Hall in Tel Aviv in advance of Israel’s Independence Day, or Yom Ha’atzmaut, according to a statement sent by his office.

Later, he said, “It is my intention to submit a basic law to the Knesset that would provide a constitutional anchor for Israel’s status as the national state of the Jewish people,” “I believe that the most basic component in our life as a nation will receive constitutional status similar to the other main components that are the foundation of our state, as determined in the basic laws.”

Netanyahu said Israel will “always preserve the full equality, in personal and civil rights, of all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, in a Jewish and democratic country.”

He briefly addressed the U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which failed to continue past the April 29 deadline.

“One cannot favor the establishment of a Palestinian national state in order to maintain the Jewish character of the State of Israel and, at the same time, oppose recognizing that the State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish people,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council last week that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which Netanyahu has called central to the peace process.

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