Israeli cabinet approves controversial loyalty oath
Israel's government approved Sunday a controversial amendment to the country's citizenship law, which would require new immigrants to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, dpa reported.
The vote was 22 minsters in favour, and eight against, Israel Radio reported. All five ministers from the left-of-centre Labour Party cast "nay" votes, as did three ministers from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party.
The loyalty oath, as the pledge has been dubbed in the Israeli media, will be an amendment to the Citizen and Entry Law, and will require naturalised citizens to state that "I declare that I will be a loyal citizen to the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and I obligate myself to respecting its laws."
The declaration will not have to be made by Israel's Arab citizens, nor by immigrants under the so-called "Law of Return," which says that every Jew has the right to become an Israeli citizen upon immigration.
It will, however mainly affect Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip - currently an estimated 25,000 - married to Israeli Arabs, and asking for citizenship on the grounds of family reunification.
Commenting on the law, Netanyahu told ministers that "there is no other democracy in the Middle East and no other Jewish state in the world. That is the basis of our existence and whoever wishes to join us has to acknowledge this."
But Labour and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, of the Labour Party, called the proposed amendment "unnecessary and wrong," saying it would discriminate against minorities.
Another Labour Party minister, Minority Affairs Minister Avishai Braverman, said the proposal "would not benefit Israel, sends a problematic message to minorities, and would harm Israel's image in the world."
If accepted by the cabinet, the proposal still has to receive the backing of the 120-seat Knesset.