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Israel OK's controversial loyalty oath
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 11 - 10 - 2010

Arab MPs slam billOCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel's mainly right-wing government Sunday voted overwhelming in favor of legislation requiring non-Jewish new citizens to swear allegiance to the country as a Jewish state.
The 30-member coalition Cabinet endorsed a draft amendment by 22 votes to eight, a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said. It has still to be approved by parliament before becoming law.
“The Cabinet a short time ago approved an amendment to the Citizenship Act regarding the pledge of allegiance to the state of Israel,” it said.
“According to the amendment... ‘Jewish and democratic state' will be added at the end of the pledge of allegiance.”
Israeli media said that all five ministers from the left-leaning Labor party voted against the proposal, as did three members of Netanyahu's own Likud.
The controversial amendment had been toned down from an original proposal by the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which would have required even Arabs born in Israel to make the pledge and promise to serve in the military or perform other national service. But it has still been slammed as inflammatory and racist by the country's Arab minority, and one Labor minister said on Sunday ahead of the vote that it took the country to “the edge of a chasm”.
“There is a whiff of fascism on the margins of Israeli society,” Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog told army radio.
“The overall picture is very disturbing and threatens the democratic character of the state of Israel.”
Netanyahu told ministers at the start of Sunday's meeting that the proposed pledge was in keeping with the words and spirit of the Jewish state's founders.
The amendment has been denounced within Israel's Arab community, which makes up about 20 percent of the population, as targeting Palestinians seeking citizenship after marrying Israeli-Arab citizens.
“I see no reason for the loyalty law... other than some kind of political arrangement between Lieberman and Netanyahu,” Minorities Minister Avishay Braverman, of the Labor party, told journalists outside the Cabinet office.
Many Cabinet members oppose extending the settlement freeze despite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's refusal to hold further US-backed negotiations without a complete halt to settlement activity.
The 10-month moratorium on new settlement building expired last month and Israel has so far refused to renew it.
– Agence France


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