Israeli Cabinet committee pushes bill that downgrades Arabic


The bill has to pass several rounds of legislation in parliament for it to become law.

Israel has greenlighted a national debate on a controversial bill that would anchor the apartheid state's status as exclusively a Jewish one, further discriminating against Arabs and setting up a further barrier to a peace process with Palestine. It also revokes Arabic's "official language" status in Israel. Officials insist they'll come up with some "special status" for Arabic allowing it to still be used to access state services. The cabinet-level step comes two weeks before a visit by US President Donald Trump.

The bill approved on Sunday had undergone editing of its original language, which raised objections and controversy by promoting the Jewish character of the state over its democratic nature.

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, a political alliance of four Arab-dominated parties in Israel, called the Ministerial Committee decision a "declaration of war" on Israel's Arab citizens. "Discrimination has received a legal stamp. The danger in this law in that is establishes two classes of citizen - Jewish and Arab", he said in the statement.

Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit, a contender for the leadership of his party, said that the bill was "reminiscent of dark periods" in history.

Zehava Gal-On, chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party, has criticized the proposed legislation.

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"I've been working on the Jewish State bill for six years", Dichter recounted. Israel's arab minority now makes up about 20 per cent of its population. Dichter argued that none of Israel's 11 Basic Laws deals with the identity or definition of the Israeli state.

The president said he was keen to reunite the Palestinian people and land by ending the division, as well as enable the national consensus government to be in charge of all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip.

He added that Germany will continue its efforts to build the Palestinian state and improve the living condition of the Palestinian people.

The bill unanimously passed the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. "We've been waiting to discuss and make a decision on this legislation for too long".

Earlier on Tuesday, the Haaretz daily reported that Abbas told Trump during their meeting that he would like to see fresh peace talks with Israel pick up where negotiations in 2008 left off - with an offer by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that outlined the borders of a future Palestinian state.