JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to pass a new law officially defining Israel as a Jewish state.
"One of my main missions as prime minister of Israel is to bolster the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of our people," Netanyahu said of his intention to provide a "constitutional anchor" for Israel's status as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
Speaking from the room where Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared the reestablishment of the State of Israel, Netanyahu said the nation's Jewish identity, as expressed in its Declaration of Independence, is the "cornerstone" of Israeli life.
The Israeli Knesset has enacted certain basic laws over the years that together serve as the nation's constitution. There are to date 11 basic laws, enacted between 1958 and 1994.
The latest version of the bill, entitled "Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People," is jointly sponsored by Knesset members Yariv Levin and Ayelet Shaked.
Levin said Netanyau's support of the legislation "will bring Israel back to the path of Zionism."
The bill, which declares "the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people," references the national flag, anthem (Hatikva - the hope), and aliyah (immigration to Israel under the Law of Return).
The law defines Israel as the "historic homeland of the Jewish people and the place where the State of Israel is founded," providing legal status for Israel's biblical historicity.
Some Israeli Knesset members objected vehemently to the law.
But Netanyahu said he finds it "astonishing" that those asking Israel to make "massive territorial compromises" to achieve the two-state solution have a problem with defining Israel in this way.
"One cannot favor the establishment of a Palestinian national state in order to maintain the Jewish character of the State of Israel and at the same time oppose recognizing the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people," he continued. "Supporting the establishment of a Palestinian national state and opposing the recognition of the Jewish national state undermines over the long term the State of Israel's very right to exist."
In a pointed reference to the Palestinian leadership, Netanyahu said "there are those who do not recognize this natural right…and seek to undermine the historical, moral and legal justification for the existence of the State of Israel as the nation-state of our people."