Israel passes law granting only Jews self-determination

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 22, 2017.
Ronen Zvulun | AFP | Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 22, 2017.

Israel has passed a law declaring that only Jewish people have the right of self-determination in the country.

“This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the vote in parliament on Thursday, which was enacted two months after the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

Members of the Arab minority have criticized the law as “racist and verging on apartheid,” according to Reuters.

“Israel's Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the 9 million population,” Reuters reported. These consist mainly of descendants of Palestinians, the news agency detailed. Most are Muslim and live in the north of the country.

The new legislation was toned down from previous drafts, which were more radical. The current bill “also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew,” Reuters said.

Tel Aviv’s TSE 35 Index was lower by a slim margin around 7 a.m. ET, down by 0.2 percent. Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar was 0.4 percent higher against Israel’s shekel.

For more on how Israel's new law is viewed in the country, see here.