Accessibility links

Israeli Cabinet to Vote on Citizenship Requirement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second right, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem (file photo)

Israel's Cabinet is set to vote Sunday on whether to require new citizens to declare their loyalty to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced support late Wednesday for the new citizenship requirement. He said the "principle guides government policy, both foreign and domestic" and that it is a "foundation of Israeli law."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is the main force behind the proposal.

Some Israeli analysts say Netanyahu's support for the requirement was a ploy to convince Lieberman to support extending a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank that expired September 26.

Arab Israeli leaders attacked the citizenship proposal, calling it racist. They said it was targeting Palestinians looking to gain Israeli citizenship after marrying Arab Israelis. Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel's population of nearly 7.6 million.

Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party made the citizenship oath the centerpiece of its 2009 campaign in the parliamentary elections. The party is the second largest member of the governing coalition behind Netanyahu's Likud party.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were thrown into disarray by the end of the 10-month Israeli moratorium on new home construction in the West Bank. Netanyahu has so far refused to extend the partial freeze and Palestinians have threatened to pull out of the negotiations.

Lieberman's party opposes any further concessions to the Palestinians on West Bank construction. The French news agency AFP quoted party sources as saying the citizenship loyalty issue would have no impact on its opposition to extending the moratorium on settlement expansion.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP, Reuters and WP.