Naftali Bennett: Jewish Nation-State Law harms ‘our Druze brothers‘

Education Minister Naftali Bennett took a surprising stand Wednesday when he accused his own government of making a mistake in the Jewish Nation-State Law that was passed last Thursday, charging that it harms Israel’s Druze minority.

Bennett’s change of heart came after holding many discussions with what he called “our Druze brothers.” There are thousands of Druze members in Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party who were registered to the party by Druze activist Ayal Assad, who informed Bennett of the problem.

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“It has become clear that the manner in which the Nation-State Law was enacted is very damaging – especially to them and to anyone who has tied his fate to the Jewish state,” Bennett said. “This, of course, was not the intention of the Israeli government. These are our brothers who stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the battlefield and made a covenant with us – a covenant of life. We, the government of Israel, have a responsibility to find a way to heal the rift.”

Sources in Bayit Yehudi said Bennett would likely ask for an amendment to the law when the Knesset returns from its recess in October that would protect the rights of the Druze, who serve in the IDF. The sources revealed that Bennett issued his statement now to stay ahead of Netanyahu, who has come under pressure from the Druze community. He spoke this week to Sheikh Muwaffak Tarif, the leader of the Druze community in Israel.

Netanyahu and incoming opposition leader Tzipi Livni both announced that they will meet with Tarif and other Druze leaders in upcoming days. Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich mocked Bennett and Netanyahu for "waking up only now and realizing there is discrimination in the bill."
“This bill should have united sectors in Israel, but instead it caused fights and made a big mess,” said Assad. “I think Israel needs a Jewish nation-state law, but not one that gives me a lower status.”

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also called Wednesday for the law to be changed to help the Druze. One hundred Druze former IDF officers have signed a petition calling for a change as well.

Kulanu MK Akram Hasson and other top Druze officials filed a petition on Sunday asking the High Court of Justice to strike down all or part of the Jewish Nation-State Law as unconstitutional. Hasson said the law transforms the country’s Druze population and other minorities, including Arabs, into second-class citizens.

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The petition called the law "a terrible blow to the Druze sector, a terrible blow to democracy and a terrible blow to Zionism." But Druze minister Ayoub Kara has defended the law, .

Meanwhile, Kara called upon the Israeli government to take steps to save the lives of Druze in Syria, who he said were being slaughtered.

“I will not be silent, and I will take steps to protect our brothers, wherever they are,” Kara said.