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IDIA panel on the “Nation-state Law”: Examination of the law out of a sense of national responsibility and an awareness of our joint fate

The panel took place on Monday, 4.2.19, in conjunction with Dr. Aviad Bakshi, the head the Kohelet forum’s Legal Department, Dr. Uri Aaronson of the Bar-Ilan University Law Department’s Center for Jewish and Democratic Law, Dr. Meital Pinto of Safed Academic College and Ono Academic Center’s Law School, and Tamar Naor, the Founder and CEO of IDIA, who led the evening.

The Basic Law of the Jewish State: The State of Israeli is the nation-state of the Jewish people. As such, the law refers to the core issues relevant to the state, and to IDIA: identity, partnership and national belonging. The law has aroused a fiery storm as it relates to the subject of identity. As such, the question begs to be asked – is there a need for such legislation, and upon legislation, how can extra caution and precision be employed to the definition and formulation of this law.
Legislation about nationality and identity raises the question of whether it is even possible to reach agreements without adversely affecting the joint lives and fate of all the communities living in this country. The law raises questions pertaining to Israel’s minority groups and their belongingness, as well as a question about the subject of Jewish identity – is this a “fully Jewish” nation?” Who decides who is a Jew and what that means?

During the panel, we discussed the various legal and social elements that effect Israeli legislation, the price we pay for the Israeli legislation process, and the political shows of power involved in these processes. Tamar Naor, the founder of IDIA, referred to the meanings behind national legislation for each of us, and the need to develop legitimate dialogue capabilities in order to influence national decision making and maintain social solidarity.

In true IDIA fashion, the foundation for every debate is in the knowledge we hold. As such, we opened the evening with a lecture by Dr. Uri Aaronson, who presented Israeli legal system, the history behind the gradual development of “laws,” and the Basic Law of the Jewish State: man’s honor and freedom, the Nation-state Law in all its fine print. During his lecture, Dr. Aaronson shed a light on the significance of balance within Israeli authorities, the legal status of the Basic Laws and the essential questions that legal, political and civil dialogues tackle. His lecture was followed be a presentation of opposition opinions and considerations for and against the law’s wording, by Drs. Aviad Bakshi and Meital Pinto.
The evening culminated with an open discussion with audience members and a Q&A session, moderated by the panel’s participants:

Is such a law necessary? Can the “forcing of hands” with respect to national subjects be justified – and if, yes, what are these justifications and when would it be right to implement them? Can you identify instances in which a change to the legislative process served as a model for reaching agreements on our joint fate and solidarity? And now, after legislation: “What do you do” with this law? Can a passed law be expanded? Is there a need for a change in the existing law? Or maybe the legislation of additional, different laws? What responsibilities are legislators, MKs and the public charged with, in order to create broader agreements within greater society?

Conclusions from the panel: Agreements between speakers and open topics:

The legislative process and its influence on solidarity:
Disagreement: There was/wasn’t a need to create this law
Agreement: The legislative process should take place under circumstances of broad agreement, not just at the behest of one side of the political map – this is the responsibility of politicians.
Agreement: The law raised a discussion on identity between all members of the state, which led to the arousal of feelings and perceptions of exclusion. It would be better is the legislation would have been made under broad and joint agreement. One should not avoid tackling the subject of identity and other hot topics, but rather manage the process so that everyone can take part in national decisions of these sorts.
Agreement: Political topics mentioned in other laws do not add to the debate (a unified Jerusalem), and anyone who adds, actually detracts from the dialogue.

Following legislation:
Agreement: The law should be amended to refer to the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic AND committed to the rights of all its citizens
Main disagreements requiring further debate:
Appendix 4 – As pertaining to the Hebrew and Arabic languages
Appendix 7 – As pertaining to the encouragement of the settlement of Jewish communities

The opinions varied from demands for complete cancellation of all sections, to demands to examine whether a more precise wording could create greater consensus.

Watch a video documenting this exciting evening to learn about the background for public debates on legislation, and to join an IDIA dialogue on a national topic that affects us all.

Click to watch the panel videos (in Hebrew)