Israel 'loyalty' oath applies to Jews and non-Jews: PM



JERUSALEM, Michael Blum- Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered that a controversial loyalty oath to Israel as a "Jewish state" be amended to apply to both Jews and non-Jews, a statement from his office said.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Justice Minister (Yaakov) Neeman to prepare a government bill that will apply the declaration of loyalty to a Jewish and democratic state also to Jews wanting to become citizens under the Law of Return," a brief statement from his office said.



Israel 'loyalty' oath applies to Jews and non-Jews: PM
A spokesman for the prime minister confirmed that the amendment would mean the loyalty oath would apply to everyone wishing to become a citizen of Israel, and not just non-Jews.
The proposal would be sent for approval by the ministerial committee on legislation, the statement said.
The initial proposal approved by the cabinet on October 10 was to apply only to non-Jews wanting to apply for citizenship in a move which was widely condemned as racist by Israel's Arab minority.
It was largely seen as aimed at Palestinians seeking citizenship after marrying Israeli-Arab citizens.
However, if ministers approve this new amendment which would make the law applicable to Jews and non-Jews alike, it would make the bill similar in nature to pledges of allegiance to nation states around the world.
Under the so-called Law of Return, Jews are automatically entitled to citizenship in the state of Israel.
Israeli-Arab lawmaker Jamel Zahalka charged that Netanyahu's changes did not make the bill less racist as "it forces Arab citizens to take an oath of allegiance to a Jewish state."
Another Israeli-Arab deputy, Ahmed Tibi, said late Monday "imposing identity values by force -- on Jews or non-Jews -- is absolutely useless."
And ultra-orthodox politician Moshe Gafni said Netanyahu "should deal with Israeli citizens' real problems rather than trifles that don't mean anything to anybody".
On Saturday several thousand Israelis -- Jews and Arabs -- staged a protest in Tel Aviv against the initial proposal, chanting "no to fascism, yes to democracy."
A poll published the previous day said that nearly two in three Israelis, or 63 percent, favoured the proposal approved on October 10.
One famous international voice to speak out against the proposal was veteran British movie director Mike Leigh, himself Jewish, who cancelled a working visit to Jerusalem because of it.
The 67-year-old director of films including "Secrets and Lies" and "Naked" had been due to spend a week at the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School at the end of November, in a trip which would also have seen him meet Palestinian film students and lecturers.
But Leigh decided to cancel, citing increasing unease with Israel's policies towards the Palestinians, in particular the government's backing of the amendment to the citizenship oath.
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Monday, October 18th 2010
Michael Blum
           


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