Egypt, GCC condemn Israeli 'nation-state' law as racist
CAIRO - Egypt on Saturday said a new Israeli law giving Jews the exclusive right to self-determination in the country undermined the chances for peace in the Middle East and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
The law, which was passed on Thursday, has drawn rebuke from the European Union and was denounced by the Palestinian Authority and Arab citizens of Israel as racist legislation.
"The Arab Republic of Egypt announces...its rejection of the law passed by the Israeli Knesset on the "national state for the Jewish people" law ... for its ramifications that consecrate the concept of occupation and racial segregation," the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.
"It undermines the chances for achieving peace and reaching a just and comprehensive solution for the Palestinian issue," it said.
It said the law would also have a potential impact on the right of Palestinians displaced from their homes in 1948 when Israel was founded, and their descendants, to return to their homes under United Nations resolutions.
Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to forge a peace treaty with Israel under the U.S.-sponsored Camp David accord that provided for the Jewish state to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula.
But relations between two countries remained lukewarm, with Egypt demanding that Israel quit other lands it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, including the Syrian Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem.
On Friday, Egypt's al-Azhar Mosque, the most prestigious Sunni Muslim institution, denounced the Israeli law calling it "a step that reflects repugnant racism".
The law adopted Thursday defines the establishment of 'Jewish communities' in Palestine, which are in fact Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land, as being in the interest of the Israeli 'nation'. Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law.
The bill also downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with special status.
The Israeli legislation was also condemned by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia slammed the Israeli law as "perpetuating racial discrimination" against Palestinians.
Citing a Saudi foreign ministry source, the official Saudi Press Agency said late Friday the kingdom "rejects and disapproves" of the new legislation which it argued contradicts international law.
The source called on the international community to "confront such a law and or other Israeli attempts, aimed at perpetuating racial discrimination against the Palestinian people", SPA reported.
Saudi Arabia said the adoption of the law would also be a barrier to ending the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Earlier this year King Salman reaffirmed Saudi Arabia's "steadfast" support for the Palestinian cause, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signalled a shift in the country's approach.
Prince Mohammed in April said in a magazine interview that Israelis as well as Palestinians "have the right to have their own land".
Arab citizens who identify as Palestinian account for some 17.5 percent of Israel's more than eight million population. They have long complained of discrimination.
Israel also controls the lives of millions more Palestinians through its occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Adoption of the law "reflected the regime of racism and discrimination against the Palestinian people," GCC secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani was quoted by SPA as saying.
Zayani accused Israel of trying to obliterate the Palestinians' "national identity and depriving them of their legitimate civil and human rights on their occupied homeland".