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Israel's Government in Crisis over Jewish Nation Bill


JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel's coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be heading for early elections. Part of the political crisis revolves around a controversial bill that's making waves both in Israel and abroad.

Netanyahu told some members of his coalition you're either with me or against me.

"I demand them to stand behind the correct policy to lead the country, from a security standpoint, economy, lowering the cost of living, in every field," he said. "If they agree, we will be able to continue, if they decline, we will draw our conclusions and go to the voters."

Some members shot back at Netanyahu.

"It's time to stop with the fiery rhetoric and radical bills and promote what can be agreed upon -- or go to the voter and let him choose between two ways," Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said.

The crisis leaves the government's future in doubt.

"The current coalition crisis in Israel is both a made-up crisis and also a potential serious crisis that could bring down the government," Prof. Reuven Hazan, with Hebrew University's Department of Political Science, told CBN News.

One issue dividing the different political parties has been a controversial bill officially defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Prof. Abrahim Diskin, who helped draft the legislation, said the law is simple.

"It's a declaratory law that talks about the fact Israel is a Jewish nation, that the flag is the flag that we already have; the anthem is the same anthem, mostly symbols like that," Diskin told CBN News.

Yoram Hazony said with the current state of the Middle East, Israel needs to maintain its Jewish nature while at the same time being a robust democracy.

"The purpose of the law is to defend things that already exist. It doesn't create a single new policy," Hazony told CBN News.

"This is a law that seeks to defend the existing Jewish school system, the Law of Return, the right of the Israeli government to employ Israeli armed forces for the sake of the defense of the Jewish people everywhere in the world … that's not a change in the status quo.  It's defending the status quo," he explained.

Hazony and Diskin say the law preserves the individual rights of all Israelis regardless of race or religion. Yet given the current political crisis, it's unlikely the law will be voted on soon.

Early elections seem more likely. If so, recent polls suggest Benjamin Netanyahu would return as prime minister for a fourth term.

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