Israeli Arabs 'relegated' by Jewish state

Turkish vice president blasts new Israeli law

Israeli Arabs 'relegated' by Jewish state

This is our country. "We are proud of being a strong nation deeply rooted in our homeland", Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement. The head of Israeli Joint List groups of parties Ayman Odeh denounced it as "the death of [our] democracy".

"This is an evil law", he told lawmakers, adding that "a black flag hovers over it".

In Brussels, a spokeswoman for European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini expressed concern at the move and said it would complicate a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It further states that a "united Jerusalem" is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country's official language, stripping Arabic of its earlier designation as an official language but recognizing its "special status".

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Israel's Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20% of the 9 million population.

Early drafts had gone further in what critics at home and overseas saw as discrimination toward Arabs, who have long said they are treated in Israel as second-class citizens. A clause that would have allowed Jewish-only communities was dropped after objections from President Rivlin. Abbas said the legislation will not discourage Palestinians in their legitimate struggle to defeat the occupation and establish their independent state.

"The Palestinians will stay in their land despite these racist laws", he added. Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes or fled. It says the new law paves the way for ethnic cleansing.

Eugene Kontorovich, worldwide law director at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a conservative Jerusalem think tank, defended the bill, arguing it "is similar to provisions in many Western democratic constitutions, which provide for an official language and national character that reflects the majority of the population".

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But American Jewish organisations expressed their disapproval of the law.

Turkey, a former ally of Israel, also criticised the law. He said the land had been sold by its original Israeli owners to other Israeli buyers, but did not identify them.

A bill that enshrines the principle that Israel is a Jewish state has been passed by MPs despite criticism that it is racist.

Israelis opposed to the bill, deeming it discriminatory, took to the streets to protest in large numbers in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

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