Israel’s Parliament passed legislation early Thursday that declared Israel to be the “national home of the Jewish people,” drawing heavy opposition from those who said it also harmed the rights of Israeli Arabs.
The legislation, adopted by a vote of 62 to 55 after hours of impassioned debate, alters the status of Arabic from an official language to a “special” one, and says the right to national self-determination rests solely with the Jewish people.
The measure also broadly encourages the establishment of Jewish communities. Israeli lawmakers had earlier removed a contentious provision that could have allowed housing discrimination.
“This is a defining moment,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said shortly after the vote, the newspaper Haaretz reported. “Long live the State of Israel.”
Mr. Netanyahu had said earlier that the bill was “very important to guarantee the foundations of our existence, which is Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab lawmaker, speaking to reporters, vigorously denounced the legislation. “I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy,” Mr. Tibi said.
At least one Israeli Arab lawmaker ripped apart a copy of the bill after the vote.
The measure will become one of Israel’s Basic Laws, which effectively serve as Israel’s constitution.
Israeli Arabs have equal rights under the law, but they say they face discrimination in public services, housing and other areas.