Otzma Yehudit’s ‘Zionist Values’ proposal runs into opposition

The initiative would make Zionist ideology the government's principal driver when crafting policy and legislation.

Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to supporters at party headquarters in Jerusalem on Election Day, Nov. 1, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to supporters at party headquarters in Jerusalem on Election Day, Nov. 1, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israel’s government delayed debate on a proposal put forward by the Otzma Yehudit Party titled “Zionism as a guiding value in government actions” at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday

The proposal would make Zionist ideology the government’s principal driver when crafting policy and legislation and deciding state activity. Its goal is to give concrete expression to the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, which the Knesset passed in 2018.

However, the Cabinet vote on the Otzma Yehudit initiative was delayed due to opposition from haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, members of the coalition, concerned that its preference for soldiers will hurt their constituency, where men are discouraged from serving in the IDF.

It was agreed to move the debate from the Cabinet to a discussion among coalition leaders. Following discussion, the proposal will be sent back to the Cabinet for a vote.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the Otzma Yehudit Party, said the proposal would still pass on Sunday by a telephone referendum among Cabinet members.

There is strong European and U.S. opposition to the initiative, but almost all ministers have announced support for it.

The proposal encountered early opposition from Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara. Although she has not submitted a written opinion, sources say she finds it problematic that Zionism will be raised above values protected by other basic laws.

Ben-Gvir said on Sunday, “I completely understand why the attorney general did not produce a written opinion, because it is difficult for her to admit that she is against Zionism.

“We are losing the Negev and the Galilee. This decision will make it possible to prioritize the values ​​of the Jews of the Galilee regarding settlement,” he said, referring to a shrinking Jewish presence in the Galilee.

Otzma Yehudit MK Yitzhak Wasserlauf, minister for the development of the periphery, the Negev and the Galilee, who first put forward the proposal in late April, said:

“If you are a Muslim or a Druze, then you get a 91% discount on land. If you are a Jew, you are discriminated against. In the name of the value of equality, we are losing the country. I, as a minister, cannot establish Jewish settlements.”

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