Israel's government on Sunday passed a controversial legislation requiring non-Jewish new nationals to swear allegiance to the country as a Jewish and democratic state. The move has been widely condemned as racist by Israel's Arab minority.
The 30-member coalition cabinet backed the draft amendment by 22 votes to eight, a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said. "The cabinet a short time ago approved an amendment to the Citizenship Act," it said, according to AFP. "According to the amendment... 'Jewish and democratic state' will be added at the end of the pledge of allegiance."
Israeli media said that all five ministers from the left-leaning Labour party voted against the proposal, as did three members of Netanyahu's own Likud.
An Israeli minister, who opposed the draft said on Sunday ahead of the vote that it took the country to "the edge of a chasm." "There is a whiff of fascism on the margins of Israeli society," Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog told army radio. "The overall picture is very disturbing and threatens the democratic character of the state of Israel."
Netanyahu told ministers at the start of Sunday's meeting that the proposed pledge was in keeping with the words and spirit of the Jewish state's founders. "There is no other democracy in the Middle East. There is no other Jewish state in the world," the Israeli leader conveyed.