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There's the good news and the bad news.  Both come from today's meeting of the Israeli Cabinet.  All come from articles in Haaretz.

First the bad news.  The Cabinet rejects pressure from the United States to freeze all new building in the settlements, including what in Israel is called natural growth.  Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been firm on this as a necessary precursor to a two-state solution.  Haaretz quotes Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas as saying a freeze would be tantamount to "expulsion."

The good news?  The Legislative Committee of the Cabinet rejected Yisrael Beteinu's proposed loyalty oath legislation, with only Yisrael Beteinu members voting for it.  This bill would have made a loyalty oath mandatory for all Israelis wishing to retain citizenship.  While supporters point out its universality, others note that it would make all Israelis pledge loyalty to Israel's existence as a Jewish, Zionist state, and to its symbols.  If I were an Israeli Arab, I would never take such an oath.  The flag and national anthem already pose serious problems for them.

Other legislation included in the recent proposals decried by the Arab monitoring committee, which met in an emergency session Saturday, include a law that would outlaw comemoration the Nakba, with a sentence of three years in jail.  This has received Cabinet support, by one vote.  The third, which gives a one-year sentence for denying in public Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, has passed a first reading in the Knesset.  

So while a hint of sanity prevailed today, I agree with a Haaretz editorial calling for a reining in of the right wing legislators.  It is clear that these bills are violations of the most basic freedoms named in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, and as such must be stopped.  Denying basic free expression to both Arabs and Jewish peace and human rights groups, is frankly terrifying.  

Avigdor Lieberman, it has been pointed out, brings a Soviet outlook to his approach to government and loyalty.  Perhaps.  But racism and a kind of shell shocked reaction to constant fear of violence has made Israel all too ready to consider these measures.

Originally posted to ramara on Sun May 31, 2009 at 06:53 PM PDT.

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