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Controversial 'Jewish nation-state' bill given preliminary approval in Israel

The Israeli parliament has preliminarily approved a controversial bill this week, which states that the “right to self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people” and demotes Arabic from its official status.

Supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud party, the bill states that Israel is the “national home of the Jewish people” and would demote Arabic from an official language to one that has “special standing”.

Mr Netanyahu said the bill would ensure that Israel is legally established “as the nation-state of the Jewish people”. “There is no contradiction between Israel's being a democracy and being the state of the Jewish people,” he added. “We have a constant commitment to ensure equal rights to all citizens of the state.”

However the bill has been vehemently opposed by Arab lawmakers in the Israeli parliament, who complain that Arabs in Israel face constant discrimination. “No apartheid, racist or nationalist law will erase the fact that two peoples live here,” said Ayman Odeh of the Joint List party.

Opposition to the bill also came form the leftwing Meretz party, with leader Zehava Gal-On stating that it is “clearly violating human rights, democracy and the rights of the Arab minority in Israel”.

The bill still faces three more votes in Israel's parliament before it becomes law.

See more from the Financial Times here.