Israel passes controversial nation-state bill

Israeli lawmakers in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, February 2017. (Reuters pic)

TEL AVIV: Israel’s Knesset late Wednesday passed a controversial nation-state bill that allows the state to encourage the establishment of communities for Jews only, Haaretz reported on its website.

Ahead of the vote, opposition members of the Knesset said the law meant to harm the status of Israel’s Arabs, with several clauses downgrading the status of the Arabic language from an official language to one with “special status,” according to the newspaper.

The bill “is very important to guaranteeing the essence of our existence, and we must pass it soon,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday at a meeting of his Likud party’s parliamentary faction.