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Hundreds protest in Jerusalem against nation-state bill

Hundreds of Israelis protested in Jerusalem against the nation-state bill enshrining Israel’s status as a Jewish state. The protesters gathered Saturday night in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a softened version of the measure to the Cabinet on Sunday. The bill will go to the Knesset for a first reading in early December. The original version had been scheduled to go to the Knesset floor this week for a first reading before Netanyahu decided to delay the action. On Sunday, in protest of the bill, photos of Israeli politicians in Nazi SS uniforms were uploaded to Facebook by someone using the pseudonym Natan Zoabi. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open an investigation into the action.

Criticizing the bill, Shimon Peres, the dovish former prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate whose presidential term ended this summer, said the bill could spark a “religious upheaval.”

“The controversy surrounding what’s now called the nation-state law seems to many as an unnecessary addendum that could compromise the people’s uniting values,” Peres said in a speech at Kibbutz Sde Boker at an annual memorial ceremony honoring David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. Peres labeled the bill “an unnecessary religious argument instead of a broad national agreement, which could turn a political conflict into a religious upheaval that would be difficult to stop.”

Peres is among several leading Israeli figures who have said the bill would compromise the equal status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.

On Nov. 26, Netanyahu presented what he said would be the four key elements of the bill, whose final draft has not yet been made available. The bill will state that Israel “is the historic homeland of the Jewish People and the place of the establishment of the State of Israel” and that Israel “is the national home of the Jewish People and its place for realizing its historic right for self-determination as per its cultural and historic heritage,” Netanyahu said.

Additionally, the bill envisioned by Netanyahu would say that “the right to realize national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People” and that Israel “is a democratic state founded on the principles of freedom, justice and peace in light of the vision of Israel’s prophets and upholds the individual rights of its citizens according to any legal standard,” Netanyahu said.

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