(July 30, 2018 / Israel Hayom) Despite some Druze leaders’ vocal opposition to the controversial nation-state law, some in the community, as well as within other minorities, are voicing support for the legislation.
The nation-state law defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The law’s provisions, including the downgrading of the Arabic language from an official language of Israel to one with a “special status,” and the assertion that only Jews have a right to self-determination, have angered Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, who view the law as discriminatory and offensive.
The Druze—a unique religious and ethnic minority among Israeli Arabs—were particularly outraged by the legislation, as most Druze men serve in the Israel Defense Forces and members of the community serve in top positions in Israeli politics and public service.
Chairman of the Druze Zionist Council for Israel Atta Farhat took to Facebook on Sunday to express his support for the law.
“No other Druze community has it better than the Druze community in Israel,” he said in a video. “I implore all of my brethren in the Druze community to avoid the trap set by the left and back the nation-state law as it is.”
Capt. (res.) Shadi Haloul, head of the Israeli Christian Aramaic Association, who also runs a pre-military preparatory program for Jews and the Christian Arabs, said he was also in favor of the law, claiming that it actually cements the rights of minorities.
“Just look at what has happened to the Maronite Christians who are being persecuted in Lebanon, as well as other minorities there,” he said. “As soon as Israel stops being the state of the Jewish people, as some in radical left and in the Arab parties want, we will no longer be able to enjoy the freedoms and security Israel provides us.
“Israel recognized our special status as Aramean Christians and thus recognized our ethnic identity,” continued Haloul. “We are the descendants of the Jews who lived here 2,000 years ago, not of the Arabs. My ties to Israel and the Jewish people are much greater [than to the Arabs], I support the nation-state law, and I am proud to be a citizen of Israel and a member of the Aramean Christian community, like tens of thousands of others.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Druze leaders on Sunday for the third time in as many days. Netanyahu acknowledged they were “voicing the genuine sentiment in the community and we are going to seek a solution.”
Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu told Likud ministers he expected them to express “unreserved and unapologetic“ support for the controversial nation-state law.
“There is constant defiance against the nation-state law and the discourse is very one-sided. Discussions in media panels are shallow. Don’t be apologetic—fight for the truth,” he urged.
Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz was to hold additional meetings with Druze officials on Monday. Among the items to be discussed were special legislation that would guarantee the Druze a special status and address certain problems the community faces, chiefly in housing.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who is heading a task force seeking to bolster relations with the Druze, told Israel Hayom that “one cannot argue with people’s feelings, and we must address their concerns in a way that would cement the Druze’s special status.”
Levin stressed that the law does not undermine their status, and it is “critical for the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state, which is also important for the Druze.”
He added that is intolerable to have a situation in which the Druze, who have compulsory military service, are at a disadvantage when it comes to state subsidies and benefits compared to other minorities.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin met with heads of Druze municipalities on Sunday, telling them, “I have no doubt that you are equal before the law, but now we have to make sure you feel this way.”