The rumor here right now is that there will be a two-month extension of the West Bank Construction freeze.
This comes with a price of course…
Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu looks set to adopt his hard-line Justice Minister Yacov Ne'eman's position: A declaration of allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state. This looks set to be made into, and required by, law on Sunday.
On the outside it doesn't seem like any truly big deal. However the circumstances are awkward at best.
Mr. Netanyahu, two months ago, opposed the Justice Minister's controversial proposal. Now, do to the broader political needs of the hour, Netanyahu will do an about-face and submit the citizenship law amendment for his ministers' approval.
Mr. Netanyahu made his decision in light of American pressure to extend the freeze and to off-set the potential of Palestinians, both refugees from the past conflicts desiring to return to their homes in what is now the state of Israel, and those from the West Bank.
By requiring those requesting citizenship to declare allegiance to a “Jewish State”, Mr. Netanyahu is countering the Palestinian leaderships refusal to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”.
But all this is not without controversy here. The political system is asking if this is Netanyahu's gesture to soften his rouge Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in order to continue freeze. Mr. Liberman made “loyalty” the main word of his surprising campaign win – and has been pushing for this ever since he entered office.
But the storm surrounding the idea of a “citizenship law” initiative goes well beyond Israel's borders as it is clear, in the face of negotiating a peace settlement, that the law is intended especially for Palestinians entering Israel, marrying or requesting citizenship, or any other non-Jews.
Mr. Netanyahu needs Mr. Liberman's backing to give America what it wants in the two month extension, and he will exact a price and is not backing down. Part of that price is Netanyahu now defending Liberman's 'necessary' law – and he is now defending the decision as an “Amendment especially important now.”
Others here are wondering at the wisdom and prudence of raising it right now. Jews, their spouses and the descendants of Jews, even if they are not Jewish according to religious law, can acquire citizenship through what is called the Law of Return, that bypasses the naturalization route.
This is the argument against the new amendment, as it will mainly affect non-Jews seeking to acquire Israeli citizenship.
It is liable to be seen as 'racist' and to arouse opposition. But for a fact, to respond to critics, there are far more potentially 'racist' states/countries here in the Middle East. The issue is the use of 'democracy', and it's presence in Israel, as opposed to a sovereign or dictatorship as is present through most of the Middle East.
Middle East Correspondent