The State of Israel as the National Home of the Jewish People
Dubi Helman & Adi Arbel
Read The IZS Proposal Summary
The State of Israel was established as a Jewish state. This is clear from the terms of the League of Nations Mandate to establish a Jewish Homeland, from the UN Charter (which assumed responsibility for and continued this Mandate), from the UN Resolution of November 29, 1947 calling for the establishment of Jewish and Arab states, and from Israel’s Declaration of Independence (quoted below).
Israel’s character and behavior have always manifested its mission as a Jewish Homeland and the vast majority of Israelis have always so regarded their Country. However, a small group of intellectuals have been advocating a radical liberal form of democracy which would elevate the ideal of absolute equality among all groups above all other democratic values (such as national self-determination, majority rule, liberty, and civil rights). This view has infiltrated the decisions of the Supreme Court whose members are appointed by a committee dominated by sitting Supreme Court judges without any ratification process.
Recently, leaders of the Israeli Arab population have issued calls for the conversion of Israel into a bi-national state without any connection to the Jewish people or culture.
Because of this radical liberal influence and the court decisions undermining the Zionist foundations of the State, because of the direct challenge to the Jewish character of the state by central elements of the Israeli Arab leadership, because the Arabs outside of Israel still refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state despite Israel’s insistence; it is imperative that Israel enact a Basic Law setting forth clearly that Israel is a Jewish state and the Nation Homeland of the Jewish people, and defining explicitly its Jewish character and mission.
The State of Israel as the National Home of the Jewish People
“As of Natural Right” – Introduction
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped… Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland… In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home…
… On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel… This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.
This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State…”
(From: The Declaration of Independence, 5708, 1948)
“By Virtue of Natural Right” – Background
The State of Israel was established as a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, by virtue of the historical connection between the Nation of Israel and its land and by the recognition and approval of the nations of the world. In the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, the new State was defined by the members of the National Council as the National Home of the Jewish People and the foundations were laid to ensure that it would be a Jewish State with a democratic government. During the sixty years of the State, a wide acceptance of this definition has prevailed in the Zionist public.
As part of the Declaration, it was determined that the elected constituent assembly would ratify a constitution within half a year of the establishment of the State. Because of the existential wars imposed on the State of Israel since its birth and because of political disagreements (many of them partisan), Israel has remained until today without a constitution. Because of this, the State of Israel’s legal character as the National Home of the Jewish People was never explicitly delineated, leaving us only with the general principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.
In the past, the State’s status as National Home for the Jewish People was never questioned: it was obvious to the public and to the authorities, including the Judiciary. Practical manifestation of the Jewish status of the state can be seen in the very name of the State and from a multitude of laws such as the Flag, Symbol and Anthem Law 5709-1949; the Independence Law 5709-1949; the Law of Return 5710-1950 (which grants each Jew with the right to immigrate to Israel); the Work and Rest Hours Law 5711-1951 (which adopts the Sabbath and Jewish Holidays as days of rest); laws that institutionalize the cooperation between the State of Israel and the National Institutions of the Jewish People, and many more. Additionally, the State of Israel initiated programs and invested resources for the welfare of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, including: the promoting of Aliya to the Land of Israel, programs to bring Jews to the Galilee, assisting in the Aliya of Ethiopian Jewry, supporting Jewish Zionist education, memorializing the Holocaust, and others.
In recent years, a back-peddling trend has developed, which weakens the position of the State of Israel as the National Home of the Jewish People. The State of Israel, which was established as a Jewish State with a democratic form of government, would be turned into a liberal-democratic country with Jewish characteristics only to the extent that these characteristics do not contradict the principle of absolute equality among all groups. This radical liberal approach regards strict and absolute adherence to rigid and ubiquitous equality as the exclusive supreme value in a democratic society. The only acceptable substantive departure from this all pervasive and supreme equality allowed to the Jewish people is the “special house key given to members of the Jewish People”, in other words, The Law of Return, 5710-1950. But inside this house-within Israel-one must treat Jews and Arabs, as individuals and as a collective,identically.
This radical liberal interpretation has not been generally adopted by Western democracies which also regard other fundamental principles such as liberty, civil rights, and majority rule as primary elements of democratic rule. Moreover, preference of the founding national group is a common feature of some of our strongest democracies. This elevation of equality by the back-peddlers to an exclusive supreme value in Israel would deny the Jewish people its right to self-determination, seriously distorts democratic principles, violates the intention of the founding fathers, and thwarts legitimate majority rule. It leads to the warped conclusion that all laws contributing to the Jewish character of Israel are undemocratic (except for now, the Law of Return) and must therefore be annulled.
Time to Act
The emergence of this Jewish self-denial and back-peddling soon lead to an Arab call for the de-judaization of the Jewish state. In 2006, the National Board of Arab Regional Councils published is future vision for Palestinian Arabs in Israel. This vision rejects the Declaration of Independence and calls for a bi-national state.
The Arabs, according to the wording of their manifesto, claim citizenship in the State of Israel but they eschew any loyalty to that state as actually established, developed, and internationally recognized. Indeed they fervently espouse a vision which is not only different: it is mutually exclusive.
Because of this internal confusion about the Jewish character of the state on the part of a very small but very influential minority of the Jews in Israel; because of the direct challenge to the Jewish character of the state by recent Supreme Court decisions; because of the direct challenge to the Jewish character of the state by certain elements of the leadership of the Arabs in Israel; because the Arabs outside of Israel still refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state despite Israel’s insistence; it is imperative that Israel enact a Basic Law setting forth clearly that Israel is a Jewish state and the Nation Homeland of the Jewish people, and defining explicitly its Jewish character and mission.
 This material is extracted and modified from a position paper of the Institute for Zionist Strategies submitted submitted
by Dubi Helman and Adi Arbel
 The Declaration of the State of Israel was signed by the members of the National Council, which was constituted of representatives of the entire Jewish population of that time, including Communist and Haredi representatives.  The term “National Home” is believed to have stemmed from the Zionist platform that was defined in the First Zionist Congress in Basel, 5657-1897: The goal of Zionism is “establishing a National Home for the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, which is to be protected by International Law…” (For more details in Hebrew, see http://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/heb/herzl_ben.htm).  While Israel is not defined or described as a democracy in the Declaration of Independence, democratic governmental precepts are delineated. For example “The State of Israel… will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”  Public awareness of the Declaration of Independence was reinforced during the sixtieth year of the State due to an initiative by the Young Leadership Forum of the Institute for Zionist Strategies, in an attempt to have each of the members of Knesset re-sign the Declaration of Independence. Ninety MKs re-signed the Declaration.  “Substantive” as opposed to symbolic expressions such as the anthem, to which there are those who object to its being recognized as a representative anthem of the citizens of the State. Not all of the back peddlers agree to this exception.  See the words of former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak in the Supreme Court ruling 6698/95, Aadal Kadan et al v. The Israel Land Administration. Ruling 54 (1).  See Golovensky and Gilboa, 36 Azure, page 28 (and footnote 18, citing Yakobsen and Rubinstein, Israel and the Family of Nations.
 The Future Vision For Palestinian Arabs in Israel, the Regional Board for Arab Council Heads, 2006.http://www.mossawacenter.org/files/files/File/Reports/2006/Future%20Vision%20(English).pdf. This was soon followed by other similar proposals by three Israeli Arab organizations.  The mission statement clearly states: “The definition of the State as a Jewish State and the usage of democracy to further its Jewish nature excludes us and places us in conflict with the nature and essence of the state in which we live. Therefore, we demand a consociationalism democratic government which will enable us… to ensure our national, historical, civil, individual and collective rights.”, and “In the center of the collective-national equality we demand for Palestinian Arabs, we request a basic principle, that is the full and real equal partnership, as individuals and as a group, in all of the public resources of the State: the political, the material, and the symbolic.”
 The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, November 29, 1947 called for the establishment of “independent Arab and Jewish States” in Palestine. The recognition of Israel by the United States reads as follows: ” The government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new state of Israel.” “.  Two US presidents have now publicly and explicitly called for a Palestinian state to be established which would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.