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Sunday Oct. 10, 2010 6:08 PM (EST+7)
Israeli govt votes for loyalty oath to Jewish state

Read more: loyalty oath, Knesset, Arab-Israelis , Israeli-Arabs

JERUSALEM, Oct 10 (Joseph Nasr/Reuters) - The Israeli government voted on Sunday in favor of legislation that would require candidates for Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to the Jewish and democratic state of Israel.

Leaders of Israel's Arab minority have condemned the naturalisation oath -- which does not apply to Jews, who are granted citizenship automatically on immigration under a Law of Return -- as racist.

Anyone who asks to receive Israeli citizenship through naturalisation will declare that he will be a citizen loyal to the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters.

That is the essence of Zionism and the state of Israel, he said before the amendment to the country's citizenship law was approved in a 22-8 vote by his cabinet.

The legislation must be ratified by parliament in order to become law.

Some political commentators said Netanyahu's backing of the measure, promoted by his biggest coalition partner, the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, might have been aimed at securing the support of its leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for future peace moves with the Palestinians.

The legislation will have no bearing on the citizenship of Israel's Arab minority, who make up 20 percent of the population and are represented in parliament.

But the requirement to pledge loyalty to a Jewish state might deter Palestinians or other non-Jews who marry Israelis from applying for Israeli citizenship.

It's a terrible mistake, Minorities Minister Avishay Braverman said of the legislation.

In the world, the public opinion will go mostly against us, even more. Inside, you incite the Arab minority -- why? Because Netanyahu has to appease Lieberman. A terrible mistake, said Braverman, a member of the center-left Labour Party.

Netanyahu has made Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a key condition for implementing any future peace agreement, a demand Palestinian leaders have rejected. (Editing by Tim Pearce)







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