Israeli press sees loyalty oath as win for right

A combo of two pictures shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have both supported the proposal

Comment in the mainstream Israeli press about the loyalty oath is broadly negative. The cabinet approved the measure, which would require non-Jews taking Israeli citizenship to swear loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state". It must still receive the approval of the parliament before it becomes law.

Several commentators see it as a political hijacking of Jewish identity and a shunning of the country's large Arab minority. There is a consensus that the right-wing Israel Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman alone will benefit from the legislation.

Hagai El-Ad in The Jerusalem Post

The "declaration of loyalty" bill, voted through in the cabinet on Sunday, is just one unfortunate expression of an unprecedented, current tide of anti-democratic legislation, attacking democracy at its very heart… It is one thing to require adherence to the law; it is another altogether to demand that free individuals in a democracy sign on to a specific ideology or identity - and specifically one with particular religious content… Demanding "loyalty" was Israel Beitenu's campaign highlight. The declaration of loyalty bill is an essential part of that party's platform but now it will become the law of the State of Israel.

Boaz Okon in Yediot Aharonot

This rift they now want to create between the Jewish state and the democratic one could turn into a monster that will still drag us all into the abyss like a bolting horse… Its objective is to outrage, anger and alienate. It speaks of malicious intent stemming from blindness to the existence of a large minority that lives here. There is a brutal attempt here to steal the expression "Jewish" for twisted political ends and to distort it in order to declare the minority unwanted here.

Ben-Dror Yemini in Maariv

The debate on amending the Citizenship Law is legitimate… However, not everything should be said in this debate. When [Labour Party minister] Isaac Herzog, determines, within the framework of the coalition in which he serves, that many laws passed in the Knesset [Israeli parliament] are akin to fascism, he crosses all red lines… Mr Herzog, you have the right to hold your views which are gradually becoming extremist… But when you do so from the cabinet table, you cross all red lines.

Yossi Verter in Haaretz

Political legend has it that the dramatic election campaign that swept Benjamin Netanyahu into the Prime Minister's Office in 1996 was decided by the famous slogan "Netanyahu is good for the Jews"... Over a decade has passed and Netanyahu is once again revisiting the "Jewish" issue. His government met for hours yesterday, discussing and finally approving the unnecessary, useless bill requiring non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state… Perhaps it serves Netanyahu by shoring up his base of support on the right, but that is doubtful... What is certain is that it serves Avigdor Lieberman extraordinarily well... "Without loyalty there is no citizenship" was the successful campaign slogan used by Lieberman during the previous election. When Netanyahu grants him the gift of a loyalty oath, he strengthens and legitimises him.

Editorial in Haaretz

The opposition voiced by five Labour Party ministers against proposed changes to the Citizenship Law during yesterday's vote was made possible only after a number of senior party figures lobbied party leader Ehud Barak to change his stance and vote no. Even though Barak himself - who tried to walk the proverbial tightrope in offering his own proposal to add the phrase "in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence" - ultimately voted against the measures, his conduct on this issue does not bode well... [The Labour Party] has become nothing more than a tool of the extreme right while using the hackneyed excuse of remaining in the coalition to advance the peace process.

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