Israel Debates 'Loyalty Oath' for Naturalized Citizens

The bill’s problem, however, is more long term.

The oath controversy comes as Netanyahu re-asserts a demand for the Palestinians to accept Israel as a “state of the Jews.” Arab Israeli leaders -- who do not have to take the oath -- have described the proposal as racist because partners seeking naturalization would have to take the oath.

For Palestinian leaders, the oath appears to disqualify future talks regarding the right of return for Palestinian refugees, a major negotiation point.

The oath issue is also being perceived as a delaying tactic intended to pull attention away from West Bank settlement freeze and continued peace talks issues.

One certainty:  The oath issue is drawing criticism, attention, and headlines.  Thousands of anti-oath protesters recently took to Tel Aviv’s streets, and columnists, supporters, and critics are decrying and supporting the bill in equal measure.

Telling is the relative quiet pervading Jewish reaction to the proposed oath. In a piece comparing Avigdor Lieberman to ultra-right wing activist Meir Kahane, Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston writes that even the right wing is aware of both the bill and Lieberman’s inherent extremism:

Is anyone on the mainstream Jewish right -- anyone at all -- willing to speak in defense of Avigdor Lieberman, the bully in the china shop of Israel's relationship with its Arab minority?

Burston notes that major American Jewish organizations including the Israel Project, ZOA, and AJC remained either soft or silent on the controversial bill issue.

As Burston’s column concludes:

The best indication may have come in a poll published at the weekend. Asked -- and the very question says a great deal about the current atmosphere in Israel -- "Who among politicians contributes the most to the rise in trends of extremist nationalism, to the point of fascism?" fully 60% of Israelis responding answered "Avigdor Lieberman.