‘Jewish state’ bill cleared by ministers

A Palestinian man points to Hebrew graffiti reading "Death to the Arabs" following an arson attack in Khirbet Abu Falah, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Sunday.

A Palestinian man points to Hebrew graffiti reading “Death to the Arabs” following an arson attack in Khirbet Abu Falah, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Sunday.

Israel’s Cabinet has approved a contentious bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

The bill still needs to be passed in Parliament to become a law, but Sunday’s vote looks to further inflame tensions with Arab Israelis and Palestinians. It could also shake up Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government due to the fierce opposition of two of his more centrist partners.

The bill calls for recognizing Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalizing Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation, and delisting Arabic as an official language. Opponents say the bill undermines Israel’s democratic character, and rights groups have called it racist.

Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population and strongly oppose the bill.

The Arab League, meanwhile, will hold an extraordinary meeting next week to discuss the situation in the Palestinian territories in the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, an official said Sunday.

The meeting on Nov. 29 comes as annexed Arab east Jerusalem is roiled by months of unrest, which has spread across the occupied West Bank and to Arab communities inside Israel. Arab foreign ministers meeting Saturday will discuss the latest unrest as well as plans by the Palestinians to seek “membership in UN agencies,” Arab League deputy chief Ahmed Ben Helli told reporters.

The Palestinians have said they will submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council later this month, calling for an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories within two years.

The text, which the Palestinians have been discussing for weeks, is expected to be vetoed by permanent member the United States.

The Palestinians have said they will seek membership of the International Criminal Court, where they could sue Israeli officials over alleged war crimes, if the US wields its veto power.

Ben Helli said the Arab foreign ministers will also discuss Israeli activities in Jerusalem, which he said is “pushing the region to (an) explosion” of violence and compromising peace efforts.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the Mideast Quartet envoy, Tony Blair, met Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri to discuss the latest developments.

 
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