Israeli Knesset

A general view of Israeli parliament Knesset in session
Israeli lawmakers are voting on a bill that declares Israel exclusively "the nation-state of the Jewish people," with rights groups warning it would enshrine apartheid and Jewish supremacy.

The "Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people" bill prioritizes Jewish values over democratic ones in the occupied territories and declares Jerusalem al-Quds the "capital" of Israel.

It also allows Jewish-only communities, sets Hebrew as the official language of Israel and relegates Arabic from an official language to one with "special status."

The bill, coming to a final vote Monday, has been compared to South African apartheid by Israeli lawmakers, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said its passage is one of his top priorities.

Some 7,000 people, including several Israeli politicians, social activists, public figures and lawmakers, took to the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday to condemn the discriminatory nature of the measure.

The bill would also limit Palestinian access to the regime's high court, with critics saying it is the latest step toward a de-facto annexation of the West Bank.

A Knesset panel on Sunday approved the bill for second and third readings in a move seen as an attempt to hamper Palestinian petitions against Jewish settlements in the West Bank and to ban the demolition of settler units.

"This is the law of annexation. If you are brave enough to annex, then do so to the end," member of Knesset Karin Elharar said.

If the bill is passed, district courts would have jurisdiction to discuss Palestinian petitions against Israeli settlements.

"This is an attempt to prevent Palestinians from demanding rights to their land," MK Michal Rozin said, adding the bill also allows for land "theft.

Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel - said in a new position paper that the bill falls within the bounds of absolute prohibitions under international law and is therefore illegitimate as a colonial law with characteristics of apartheid.

"The Nation-State Basic Law is illegitimate, as it establishes a colonial regime with distinct apartheid characteristics in that it seeks to maintain a regime in which one ethnic-national group controls an indigenous-national group living in the same territory while advancing ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies in the most basic aspects of life," Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen said.

The bill would "remove the mask so as to reveal the ugly face of ultranationalist Israel in all its repugnance," Mordechai Kremnitzer, from the faculty of law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote in Israel's Haaretz newspaper.