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Israeli cabinet approves loyalty oath to Jewish state

Oct. 10, 2010 3:56 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 11, 2010 3:26 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's government on Sunday approved a proposal to require every non-Jew wishing to become a citizen to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state.

Twenty-two ministers voted in favor of the proposal, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported. Eight ministers were opposed.

Speaking ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the amendment to the citizenship law would require that "anyone seeking to become a naturalized Israeli citizen will declare [that] he or she will be a loyal citizen of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

"No one can preach democracy or enlightenment to us," Netanyahu said, adding that "There is no other democracy in the Middle East."

Critics of the proposal question the democracy of forcing non-Jews to swear allegiance to a Jewish state. The bill will primarily affect Israel's Palestinian minority as Jewish immigrants to Israel usually enter on the state's Jewish Law of Return. Around 20 percent of Israel's population are non-Jewish Arabs.

Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouthi said the move was "the last straw in the consolidation of a racist, apartheid system in Israel," describing the law as "an official declaration of apartheid."

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy panned the move in a piece published shortly after the vote. "Remember this day," he wrote. "From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn't affect him is mistaken."

During peace talks in Washington last month, President Mahmoud Abbas refused Israel's request to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state," saying that it would forfeit the right of return of Palestinian refugees, a final status issue in negotiations. Further, he said it would threaten the civil rights of Palestinians living inside Israel.

Negotiations have reached a deadlock over Netanyahu's refusal to stop building settlements on Palestinian land. At an Arab League summit in Libya on Saturday, Abbas said the international community realized the "absurdity" of continuing to negotiate with Israel while it expanded settlements and unilaterally imposed borders.
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