German president: Israeli-Palestinian peace 'truly urgent'

The bill designates Hebrew as the country's only official language, although it requires government services and forms to be available in Arabic as well.

Mr. Netanyahu maintained, "There is no contradiction between the [proposed] law and equal rights for all of Israel's citizens", pointing out that it says all citizens have a right to their own culture, heritage and language.

Sponsored by Avi Dichter, a member of Netanyahu's overtly nationalist Likud party, the bill has been promoted as necessary to "set in law our national identity while remaining a democratic state".

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, a political alliance of four Arab-dominated parties in Israel, called the Ministerial Committee decision a "declaration of war" on Israel's Arab citizens.

If the proposed law, which substantially harms the rights of minorities, is ultimately passed by the Knesset, it will turn into a fundamental law and will become an essential ingredient of Israel's central body of legislation.

Abbas said he briefed his German counterpart "on all that are doing to bring freedom and independence to our Palestinian people, particularly our meeting last week with President Trump, who answered our invitation and whom we look forward to meeting in Bethlehem".

The new version of the bill stipulates the "State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people", and that the "right to self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people".

The provocative bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday and now waits to pass a number of rounds of legislation in the Israeli parliament, Knesset, for further readings before becoming law.

Steinmeier, who is not scheduled to meet any potentially controversial group during his visit, said trust and understanding between Israel and Germany should result in no limitations.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, visiting Israel, said a two-state solution is the only resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

The president said he was keen to reunite the Palestinian people and land by ending the division, as well as enable the national consensus government to be in charge of all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip.

He said that the bill counters Palestinian efforts to deny Jewish rights to Israel. "The Palestinians no longer hide their goal of erasing the Jewish people's nation-state", he wrote in defense of the legislation. Israel's arab minority now makes up about 20 per cent of its population.

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