TEL AVIV, Aug 12 – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said the protesters at amass rally against the nation-state law who were waving Palestinian flags were seeking to destroy Israel and proved the contentious legislation was necessary.
“We have [here] conclusive evidence of the defiance against Israel and the necessity of the nation-state law,” he said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, referring to the Arab-led demonstration in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday.
“Many of the protesters want to abolish the Law of Return, the anthem and the flag, and turn Israel into a Palestinian state,” he said. “It’s clearer now more than ever that the nation-state law is needed to ensure the future of Israel as a Jewish state.”
The prime minister made similar remarks Saturday night on Twitter after images and videos of the flag-waving protesters were shared on social media.
“We will continue waving the Israeli flag and singing [the national anthem] Hatikva with great pride,” he posted.
Some 30,000 Israelis packed Rabin Square for the protest march led by the Arab community against the newly passed law that critics say marginalizes the state’s non-Jewish citizens.
The law passed by the Knesset last month for the first time enshrines Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” and says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It also defines Arabic as a language bearing a “special” status, effectively downgrading it from its de facto status as Israel’s second official language.
The government has argued the new law merely anchors the country’s existing character, and that Israel’s democratic nature and provisions for equality are already rooted in existing constitutional legislation.
But critics, both at home and abroad, say it undermines Israel’s commitment to equality for all its citizens outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
It has prompted particular outrage from Israel’s Druze minority, whose members say the law’s provisions render them second-class citizens. Last week, at least 50,000 Israelis attended the Druze-led demonstration against the law in Rabin Square.
At Saturday’s rally, dozens of activists waved Palestinian flags in defiance of a request by organizers at the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, who wanted to encourage the Jewish population to attend the march in solidarity.