By Ayhan Simsek
Germany’s government on Friday was silent on Israel’s recently approved “Jewish nation-state” law.
During her annual news conference on Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to comment on the controversial law, which has been widely criticized by rights groups.
“I don’t want to interfere with the internal affairs of Israel,” Merkel said when asked her opinion of the law, but underlined that she was closely following the debate.
“I strongly believe in the right of existence of a Jewish democratic state. Besides, together with a viable Palestinian state. But unfortunately we have only been able to make little progress on that and are still working on it,” she said.
The chancellor also underlined the importance of “protecting minorities” in a democracy, referring to the debate in Israel on the controversial law.
Merkel has been a strong supporter of Israel and pursued policies meant to deepen ties between the two states. She has repeatedly underlined Germany’s historical responsibility due to the Holocaust, and said that Israel’s security is "part of Germany’s reason of state."
On Thursday, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) approved the law, which describes Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
The legislation 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 while recognizing its “special status.”
It was approved by a vote of 62-55 in a tumultuous assembly session in which Arab lawmakers decried what they called “Israeli racism against the Arab minority.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for his part, has hailed the legislation, describing its passage as a “defining moment for Zionism and Israel.”
Turkey has denounced the legislation for trying to strip Palestinians of their rights.