Druze MKs accept PM’s plan to end rift over Nationality Law
Following meeting between Netanyahu and Druze leaders over furor caused by law, two sides hammer out details of plan to pass law committing country to recognize Druze contribution to state security, support community’s religious, educational and cultural institutions; Druze MK celebrates ‘historic plan.’
Druze MKs announced on Wednesday evening that they had accepted a ‘historic’ plan proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting with Druze representatives and leaders that was called in an effort to allay fears that the recently-passed Nationality Law will impinge on their equality and basic rights.
The law has caused controversy since it passed into law in the Knesset earlier this month. The clause stating that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country has been the subject of fierce criticism and has caused offense among the Druze minority, many of whom serve the country loyally in the IDF.
“We passed the proposal to our lawyer and he deemed it acceptable. For our point of view, this is a historic plan,” said MK Akram Hasson. “It removes the feeling of ranking citizens of class A and B citizens. It enables us to be proud and equal citizens with our people in our homeland. All we wanted was to be one nation in one state.”
The plan, Hasson continued, provides “a solution to all the problems and we will begin to feel equal and we have no interest in continuing the protest. There is light at the end of this tunnel.”
“The representatives were presented with a plan. Representatives of the committee will study the plan and answer the prime minister’s team shortly,” a previous statement read.
Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafak Tarif praised the committee for its work and thanked Netanyahu for his swift and serous response to the Druze community’s concerns.
With the acceptance, the Druze MKs announced that they are withdrawing their High Court of Justice petition against the Nationality Law, which was submitted by MK Akram Hasson (Kulanu) MK Salah Sa’ad (the Zionist Union) and MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu).
MK Sa’ad, however, expressed disapproval of the acceptance. “I regret that my friends surrendered to pressure and quit the important petition to the HCJ,” he said. “I am continuing with the petition against the Nationality Law. We will see you in the HCJ.”
Despite Sa’ad’s lone dissenting voice, MK Amar praised the proposal, saying that for the first time, his “Israeliness” will be enshrined in law.
“The proposal is acceptable in my eyes. The only thing that motivates me is the good of the Druze.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement following the meeting saying that the status of the Druze community would be anchored in a new law, which will be advanced at the beginning of the Knesset’s winter session.
It will also recognize the contribution of the Druze community to the security of the state, and will include support for the community’s religious, educational and cultural institutions.
In addition, the law will call for the strengthening of Druze communities and will provide a solution to residential housing shortages for the community, including the establishment of new communities according to necessity. It will also commit to preserving and nurturing Druze heritage.
The meeting, which was attended by PMO bureau chief Yoav Horovitz, Sheikh Tarif, Druze community leaders and ministers Ayoub Kara and Yariv Levin, lay out fundamental principles that will be outlined and sent for approval by the attorney general before being put before the Knesset, currently on recess, in October.
It was also agreed during the meeting all minorities, religions and ethnicities who serve in the Israeli security forces would be eligible for benefits, a matter which will also be codified in law in an effort to narrow economic gaps. Moreover, the law will explicitly recognize the contribution of minorities to the defense of the country
The attendees agreed that a committee would be established and led by Prime Minister Netanyahu on matters pertaining to the Druze community and that the implementation of the outlined proposal would be supervised by Netanyahu.
The five following points were agreed at the meeting:
The outline of the compromise includes the following promises:
1. Enshrining the Druze community and the Circassian community in law:
The law will recognize the contribution of the Druze community to the State of Israel in establishing the country, strengthening security, and shaping the character of Israel as an equal and diverse society. This article will include the state’s support for community institutions (religious, educational and cultural institutions), strengthening of Druze towns, including presenting solutions for residential construction, the establishment of new settlements according to the community’s needs, and the preservation and teaching of the Druze heritage.
2. Enshrining in law the right to benefits of members of minorities who serve in the Israeli security forces, including the Druze minority.
3. Anchoring in a Basic Law the contribution of those who take part in defending the state, of all religions and ethnic groups, among them members of the Druze community.
4. In addition, Deputy Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office announced the establishment of a ministerial committee headed by the prime minister to address issue relating to the Druze community, and ensure that the compromise plans is properly executed.
5. The details of the proposal will be formulated and written in 45 days, within the framework of a joint team that includes government officials and representatives of the Druze community, all subject to the provisions of the law, and to the approval of the attorney general. Legislative actions will commence immediately upon the convening of the Knesset in the next winter session.