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Jewish Power party minister advances bill to make Zionism ‘guiding value’ in governmental decisions

Bill will be evaluated by attorney general and could face Supreme Court judicial review

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir with MK Yitzhak Wasserlauf at a plenum session at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on Dec. 14, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

A minister of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir's Jewish Power party, is promoting a bill that would make Zionism “be a guiding and decisive value” in shaping policy and legislation. 

Yitzhak Wasserlauf, minister of the Negev, Galilee and National Resilience, proposed a bill stating that Zionism “will be a guiding and decisive value in shaping public administration policy, domestic and foreign policy, legislation and actions of the government and all its units and institutions.” 

"The purpose of the decision is to instruct all elements in the government and its branches to give significant weight to Zionist values when setting policy and implementing it,” according to the bill, which also states it should take place “without derogating from the principles enshrined in the Basic Laws.” 

Dr. Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy Institute said the bill could be dismissed by Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara if it were to grant “unique benefits to Jews in budgets or land allocations.” 

By doing so, Fuchs said, it would contradict the Declaration of Independence and the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.

The proposal is based on a clause in the coalition agreement between the Likud party and Jewish Power, which stipulates that “a government decision will be made according to which Zionism, as defined fundamentally, will be considered a primary value, guiding and having decisive weight in shaping public administration policy, domestic and foreign policy, legislation and the actions of the state and all its units and institutions.” 

Ben Gvir said that the “historic decision” means that Zionism is returning as a fundamental value of the government. 

“Zionism is the core of the values of the Jewish state. We are returning the values of Zionism to their rightful place as values that will guide all government actions,” he said. 

The bill is widely viewed as an attempt to put the controversial “Nation-State” law into practice. That law, which sought to define Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” was passed in 2018. The law was found to be “constitutional” by the Supreme Court, despite several petitions against it. 

The court ruled that the law did not “negate Israel’s character as a democracy.” That legal opinion, expressed by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, found the law acceptable, as long as it was interpreted in light of Israel’s existing Basic Laws. 

The Nation-State law was also hailed by several members of the current opposition, among them Gideon Sa’ar. 

Some who petitioned against the Nation-State law cited its backing of settlements as problematic and likely to lead to discriminatory practices. 

The law further stipulated that "the state considers the development of Jewish settlement a national value and will act to encourage and promote its expansion." 

The current Zionism proposal seeks to return the issue of settlements to the political forefront.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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