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Barak drafts alternative loyalty oath, based on ‘liberal spirit’ of Israel

8 octobre 2010

Labor ministers angered by Netanyahu’s support of right-wing minister’s proposal, which would require non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to ‘Jewish and democratic state’.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday submitted his own draft amendment to the Citizenship Law, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a snap decision to back a controversial proposal that would require any non-Jew taking Israeli citizenship to swear allegiance to Israel as a « Jewish and democratic state. »

Angered by Netanyahu’s move to bring the amendment to cabinet for a vote, Labor party ministers said late Wednesday that they expected a new freeze in settlement building as a payoff.

Netanyahu neglected to inform his Labor coalition partners that he had approved Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman’s proposal.

Barak called ministers from his Labor Party together on Thursday proposed submitting their own draft of a loyalty oath that would reflect the liberal and open spirit of Israel’s declaration of independence.

According to Barak’s draft, prospective citizens would be required to say: « I declare that I will be a citizen loyal to the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, in the spirit of the declaration of independence, and I am committed to honoring the laws of the state. »

This draft resembles other loyalty oaths required in various countries.

Barak’s office requested that it be made clear the defense minister and his associates were not party in any way to the drafting of Neeman’s proposal. The defense minister has asked that the alternative draft be brought to cabinet for deliberation on Sunday alongside Neeman’s proposal.

Netanyahu’s support of Neeman’s draft paved the way for a vote in the Knesset and was hailed as victory by ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, Netanyahu’s major coalition partner.

But the prime minister must perform a balancing act. Allies at both ends of the political spectrum and the Labor Party said they hoped that his latest concession is a sop to right-wingers ahead of a decision to renew a ban on settlement building in the West Bank – a key demand of the left.

« I hope that Netanyahu’s support is a payoff to Lieberman, so that the prime minister will be able to extend the freeze without breaking apart his coalition, » said one Labor minister, who declined to be named.

U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which began a month ago, have faltered since Netanyahu’s government refused to extend a 10-month settlement freeze that expired in late September.

« Netanyahu is under heavy pressure from the Americans, » the minister said. « I presume that he intends to announce an extension of the freeze soon.


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