[JURIST] The Cabinet of Israel [official website] on Sunday approved draft legislation that would official define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The controversial law, titled “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” passed the Cabinet 14 votes to 6, and will now proceed to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset [official website] for a first reading next Monday. The bill has been heavily criticized by two parties who are members of Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s [official website; JURIST news archive] coalition government. Cabinet members from the Hatnua and Yesh Atid [party websites] parties voted against [Times of Israel report] the bill and could be fired by Netanyahu or leave the current governing coalition; either scenario would spark elections. Netanyahu has previously endorsed [JURIST report] hard-line versions of the bill, but has indicated that he will amend the draft in order to moderate the law before any final vote of Knesset.
The Cabinet’s approval comes during a surge in violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Earlier this month Amnesty International (Amnesty International) [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] Israel of committing war crimes during the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a report entitled “Families Under Rubble: Israeli Attacks on Inhabited Homes.” Also in November Israel’s Knesset Plenum announced [JURIST report] approval of the second and third readings of a bill that will limit the power of the government to free prisoners as part of foreign relations prisoner swaps. In October the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] urged [JURIST report] Israel to investigate alleged violations committed by its forces during the recent wars in Gaza to ensure justice.