Lapid: We’ll Vote Against Jewish State Law in the Knesset

November 23, 2014  

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, declared on Sunday night that his party will vote against the Jewish State Bill when it comes to a vote in the Knesset.

“Yesh Atid and I are not against the Jewish State Law but do not support it in the form in which it was submitted,” Lapid said in a speech before the academic business club at the  Tel Aviv University.

He added that the bill, which was submitted by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), places the concept of a Jewish state ahead of the concept of a democratic state.

“Ben-Gurion would not have approved this law, and neither would have Menachem Begin and Jabotinsky. It is an anti-democratic law,” declared Lapid.

The bill earlier on Sunday passed a crucial cabinet vote, with 15 votes for and six against.

The debate at the cabinet saw right-wing proponents of the bill face off against mostly left-wing opponents in what was at times an angry exchange.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) apparently began the row, noting that he had to compromise on the principles of the law after a veto from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua).

“If Livni had acted differently, we would not have this situation today,” Netanyahu stated. “[Livni] doesn’t behave like this with other laws.”

Livni responded by asking if that was a snide remark regarding the controversial Israel Hayom bill, which banned free newspapers from circulation in a highly controversial move seen as a direct blow to Netanyahu. Israel Hayom is owned by philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, who is considered to be a friend and supporter of Netanyahu. The newspaper’s detractors and competitors claim that it is overly protective of Netanyahu – who is often condemned by the rest of Israel’s press. 

Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Perry (Yesh Atid) then jumped into the fray.

“This is not the time,” Perry stated to Netanyahu. “I know you and know that you know how to be responsible. This proposal would harm the fabric of [Israeli-Palestinian] relations.”

Netanyahu responded by noting that the problem is an issue not only of national identity, but also security.

Livni spoke on Sunday evening to Channel 2 News and reiterated her opposition to the law. She further said that she will work to ensure that the bill does not pass a vote in the Knesset, even if Netanyahu fires her over this.

“I will not lend a hand to this bill. It’s a bad, anti-Zionist, anti-democratic law which is contrary to the Declaration of Independence,” Livni said.

“I will not be a partner of it in any way. If the prime minister decides to dismiss ministers who are fighting for a democratic-Jewish Israel, that’s his decision. I have never given up on my principles,” she added.

“The cabinet meeting could have been the beginning of a process of establishing a constitution for Israel which anchors the values of a Jewish and democratic state, but instead we discussed whether Elkin will accept the principles of the prime minister,” said Livni.

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