Following the terrorist attacks on a Jerusalem synagogue last week, the world held its collective breath for another bloody conflict as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to "respond harshly" to the perpetrators, who he claimed belonged to Hamas operating in the Palestinian territories.
However, this time around, instead of launching an all-out military offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israel adopted a different yet equally controversial approach.
The Israeli cabinet recently approved a bill declaring Israel a Jewish state in a divisive move which would further intensify discrimination against Arabs residing in occupied territories – and make the democratic status of the country questionable.
If passed, the law will define Israel a "national state for the Jewish people," despite the fact there are almost 1.6 million Arabs living in the country. It would also grant the government the authority to strip all rights from any Arab resident who took part in or incited violence, even stone-throwing.
Officially labeling it as a place for "Jews only" is bound to create internal conflicts. Arabs and Jews already do not have a history of getting along with each other. This move might just add to it and create further problems.
Not only that, the move is likely to scar the democratic image of Israel and will pose serious questions toward the new government if it is trying to create some sort of a divide between the Jews and non-Jews. Israel may no longer be considered as a true democracy if it is forever labeled as a Jewish state.
It will also give rise to the accusations and provide proof that Israel holds a bias against the Arabs (who form 20 percent of the state’s population) and doesn’t recognize them as a part of their country.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is doing his best to convince his critics that he would make Israel an exceptional state that's both Jewish and democratic.
"There are those who would like the democratic to prevail over the Jewish and there are those who would like the Jewish to prevail over the democratic," he said. "And in the principles of the law that I will submit today both of these values are equal and both must be considered to the same degree."
If both values are equal and must be considered so, then why is it so important to have a separate new law that codifies religion – and not democracy – as the mainstay of the state of Israel?
Is Netanyahu attempting to alter the principles of democracy to his own advantage? Probably.
And more importantly, how does the United States plan to defend this controversial move by its greatest ally, a move that will clearly provide a legally convenient boost to the system of apartheid in Israel?