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Justice Minister Threatens To Quit Israeli Cabinet If His Version of Loyalty Oath Defeated

Isareli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has reportedly said he will leave the Cabinet if a bill requiring naturalized citizens to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state fails to pass.

But a head count by Haaretz reveals that currently, there is no Knesset majority for the bill: Only 56 of the 120 Knesset members support it. Its passage will thus depend on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to strong-arm Members of Knesset who currently oppose it into switching their votes.

Neeman made his reported comment at a closed meeting with Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein and coalition chairman Zeev Elkin to discuss the exact wording of the bill, following Netanyahu’s decision on October 18 that the pledge would be required of all new citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike.

This was a change from a previous Cabinet decision that would have required the oath only of non-Jewish naturalized citizens.

Edelstein and Elkin, both immigrants from the former Soviet Union, told Neeman at the meeting that they will not support the bill in its new form, as it discriminates between Jews born in Israel and Jews who immigrate under the Law of Return.

Neeman spent most of October 19 in negotiations to find a wording that would enjoy the broadest possible support in the Cabinet. In particular, he wants to find wording that the three Likud party Cabinet members who voted against the bill on October 10 can support.

But the Labor Party has already announced that it will oppose the revised bill, as has United Torah Judaism and the entire opposition, including the right-wing National Union. That leaves the coalition without enough votes to pass it.

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