Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department Artyom Kozhin’s answer to a media question about the Israeli parliament’s approval of the draft Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People
Question: The Israeli Knesset has adopted a bill known as Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. What is your assessment of this step? How can it influence the developments related to the Middle East peace process?
Artyom Kozhin: On July 18, the Israeli Knesset approved in the third and final reading by 62 votes against 55 the Basic Law Bill, which declares Israel the “national home of the Jewish people.” Under the law, only the Jews have the right to self-determination within the country. Hebrew has been recognised as the state language, while Arabic, which previously was regarded as an equal language, has been given a “special status.”
The Knesset’s Arab deputies have denounced the bill. They believe the document is discriminatory against the rights of Israeli Arabs and other ethnic minorities and actually legalises the concept of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, depriving Palestinian refugees of the right to return.
The Jewish left-wing liberals also voted against the bill in the Knesset.
A powerful reaction in Israel itself and elsewhere was evoked by the clause on the status of Jerusalem as the single and indivisible capital of the State of Israel. The bill, which is yet to be signed into law by the Prime Minister and President, commits every Israeli government to continuing an active settlement policy.
Our position in this regard is utterly clear. We proceed from the assumption that a fair and lasting settlement of the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be based on well-known international legislation, including the relevant UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions providing for a negotiated solution to all problems related to the final status of the Palestinian territories, including the fate of Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements on the West Bank. On the contrary, unilateral steps that have not been coordinated by the parties to the conflict do nothing but hinder peace, foment tensions on the ground, and considerably complicate efforts directed at launching as soon as possible a meaningful peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis.