Just Journalism’s Carmel Gould analyses the subtext to the media’s reaction to Israel’s latests moves in relation to the Jewish character of Israel.
13 October '10
The past week has seen an explicit resurgence of the fundamental question of the nature of the Israeli state. On Sunday, Israel’s cabinet passed a bill requiring all non-Jewish candidates for citizenship to pledge allegiance to ‘the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state’. The previous version only required a pledge to ‘the state of Israel’. The following day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the prospect of a settlement freeze extension in return for recognition of Israel as ‘the homeland of the Jewish people’.
Both moves have elicited a cold reception in both political and media quarters. Within Israel itself, the amendment to the pledge of allegiance, has been widely condemned. Labour Minister Yitzhak Herzog and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni slammed the move. Right wing figures also voiced dissent; as well as all five Labour cabinet ministers, three Likud cabinet members voted against the bill.
Netanyahu’s offer of a freeze in return for recognition of the Jewish nature of the state of Israel also fell flat. Haaretz commentator Akiva Eldar accused the Israeli PM of being Israel’s ‘salesman in chief’ using the issue as a ‘gimmick’. The Palestinians have predictably rejected the offer, with Abbas’ spokesperson asserting that ‘[t]he issue of the Jewishness of the state has nothing to do with the matter [of negotiations].’
The world’s media have been similarly dismissive of these latest Israeli moves. The Guardian blasted the loyalty pledge amendment in its editorial, ‘Israel’s loyalty oath: Discriminatory by design’, which claimed the amendment was ‘specifically designed to exclude one fifth of its citizens who see themselves as Palestinian.’ BBC correspondent Wyre Davies dismissed the recognition gambit as ‘a tactical gesture by an Israeli prime minister who has been shifting uncomfortably in the spotlight for several weeks as peace talks with the Palestinians have stagnated’.
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