To the Editor:
In reading Matthew Continetti’s column about Israel’s new statehood law (“The Misrepresentation of Israel’s Democracy,” September), it occurred to me that there is one key point to bear in mind. Those of the law’s provisions that assert explicit law merely reiterate existing law, while those provisions that are new are more in the nature of resolutions than explicit statements of law.
The law says: “The exercise of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People.” This is forceful in tone, but it lacks any kind of legal specificity. Consider this quote from the law: “The State views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value, and shall act to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening.” This does not create any legal presumption of a Jewish land claim over a conflicting claim from a non-Jew—even though the tone of the sentence implies such a presumption. Finally, there’s this: “The exercise of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People.” This might seem discriminatory, since Israel classifies its citizens under three nationalities: Jew, Arab, and Other. However, it is not clear what this provision means in practice.
The law is part reassertion of existing law and part wish list. That said, however, it remains to be seen how the Israeli courts will interpret it.