As was widely expected, Israel’s right-wing Cabinet today approved the contentious Loyalty Oath bill, which will amend the nation’s citizenship law to require all new non-Jewish citizens to swear loyalty to Israel’s status as a “Jewish” state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that despite the requirement, all citizens of Israel will enjoy “equal rights,” but that the demand for non-Jews to swear a loyalty oath made sense in light of the ongoing peace process.
The move will direct effect comparatively few people, because the law only applies to new citizens who are not Jewish (which are covered under a separate law) and therefore will be aimed mostly at foreigners marrying Israeli citizens who are members of religious minorities.
But it is the first step in a broader effort by the Yisrael Beiteinu Party to require all non-Jews in the country, including native born citizens, to swear an oath to the government’s status as a “Jewish” state or risk expulsion.
The law was angrily denounced by leaders of Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up about 20 percent of the population, but was also condemned by a number of secular Jewish groups, which warned it was a dangerous precedent taking the nation down the road of theocracy.
The ruling sparked public protest in Tel Aviv, where a number of secular people warned that the law was turning Israel into a fascist state and that they might soon have to decide whether or not to leave the country.