J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement upon news that the Israeli Government is considering an amendment to the Citizenship Act that would demand that new citizens pledge their loyalty to a “Jewish, democratic state”:
J Street opposes the proposal Israel’s Government is considering to amend the oath that non-Jewish applicants must take to acquire Israeli citizenship.
The oath, which currently asks new citizens to pledge loyalty to the state of Israel and its laws, would now include the phrase “as a Jewish, democratic state.” Israel’s laws and its Declaration of Independence speak for themselves in affirming Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature. Adding the new language serves no purpose other than furthering the political agenda of some factions in the present governing coalition. Further, the new language will put Israel at odds not only with other democracies, but with its stated commitment to full equality for its Arab, Druze, Muslim, Christian and other non-Jewish citizens.
We are unaware of another democracy in the world that requires an oath of loyalty to the religious identity of the state. Certainly none discriminates in this manner in the conditions for citizenship on the basis of religion.
We share the concerns expressed by such leading Israelis as Deputy Prime Minister and Likud Party member Dan Meridor who said “the proposal would harm relations with Israel’s Arabs and damage the country’s international reputation,” and Minister for Minority Affairs Avishai Braverman who said “this is an outrageous, irresponsible move that pours oil on the fire of Israel’s de-legitimization around the world.” As renowned Israeli political observer Nahum Barnea put it this morning, “With this bill, Israel is buying an exit ticket from the family of nations and an entry ticket into the family of Kahane. This is an anti-Zionist bill.”
We join with these and other leading Israelis across the political spectrum in calling on the government of Israel to pull back from this proposal which runs counter not just to the values enshrined in the country’s Declaration of Independence, but puts at risk the very democratic nature of the state itself.
Update: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now called for the oath to extend to both Jews and non-Jews seeking citizenship. J Street remains opposed to the proposal for the reasons enumerated in the statement above.