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New admin: Israel Jewish first, democratic second

Israel may have to soon forfeit its long-touted claim to being the Middle East's only democracy. The new coalition government agreed to March 15 between Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi is calling for a rewrite of Israel's Basic Law that would officially make the state's democratic character subservient to its Jewish character. Earlier versions of the bill, pushed by Kadima MK Avi Dichter, contained controversial measures that sparked an outcry, leading to it being shelved. These included a mandate for the state to invest resources to promote Jewish settlement with no similar obligation to do so for other ethnic groups. Another stated that Arabic would no longer be considered an official language, but rather would merely have a "special status." (Haaretz, March 17)

West Bank settler leaders say they are pleased with the new coalition government that united the Likud-Beiteinu (center-right, by Israeli standards), Habayit Hayehudi ("Jewish Home," far-right) with Yesh Atid and Hatnua (both "centrist"). "After what we've been through, we hope the development momentum will continue," a hopeful Yesha Council official told YNet. But for the first time in almost 30 years ultra-Orthodox parties, such as Shas and United Torah Judaism, are left out of the coalition. (YNet, March 16; Jewish Policy Center, March 14)

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