Policy and Legislation


Policy and Legislation

With no constitution, fundamental rights in Israel are enshrined through a number of Basic Laws and regular legislation. As citizens of the state, Arabs are subject to the same set of laws as Jewish citizens, both in terms of rights and of obligations, with a few notable exceptions such as the Law of Return and the Defense Services Law which exempts Arab citizens from military service.

Since Israel is a democratic state of all its citizens and a state of the Jewish people, and Arab and Jewish citizens have different national narratives and socio-economic circumstances, legislation often has significantly different impact on Arab citizens than its Jewish ones—both intentionally and by oversight. Moreover, tensions over the identity of the state and the rights and obligations of the different groups within it are often played out in the Knesset.

For example, in 2011 the “Nakba Law” (an amendment to a clause in the Budget Foundations Law) was passed, allowing the Minister of Finance to revoke funding from an organization that commemorates “Israel’s Independence day as a day of mourning.” In addition, a number of attempts have been made to make certain rights conditional on loyalty to “Israel as a Jewish state” and to legislate preferential housing and employment rights to those who’ve served in the army or national service -  that negatively impact Arabs, Orthodox and other minority groups in Israel.

Legislation addressing structural issues may be perceived as a national priority on the one hand, or discrimination against the Arab minority on the other. The recently passed ‘Governance Bill’, which raises the electoral threshold to 3%, is one example, as it means Arab parties must unite in order to remain in the Knesset. The ‘Prawer-Begin Bill,’ which aims to resolve disputed settlement claims between Negev Bedouin and the state is another , as it is controversial for being too generous (according to right wing Jewish groups) or for discriminating against Bedouin Arabs (according to Bedouin groups and civil rights organizations).

Social welfare laws (e.g. the National Insurance Law, child support legislation, preferential treatment to communities in Israel’s periphery, etc.) are an area where Arab society is overrepresented as beneficiaries. There are also anti-discrimination clauses such as within Israel’s labor laws enacted to protect minorities, although according to Israel’s Equality of Opportunity in Employment Commission (EEOC) and various research findings, these are not consistently enforced. 

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