Abbas says ready to meet Netanyahu for Trump peace efforts

The controversial bill was unanimously approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. "This is enshrines the fact that Israel is the nation-state for the Jewish people, in their historical homeland".

MK Avi Dichter (Likud), who initially proposed the legislation, said the bill will counter attempts by the Palestinians to undermine the Jewish state.

Critics slam the bill as discriminatory against Israeli Arabs, who make up more than 20 per cent of Israel's population of 8.7 million, as well as other minorities.

The bill states that "the national language is Hebrew" and downgrades Arabic to "special status", but adds that "its speakers have the right to language-accessible state services".

Dichter called the move "an important step in entrenching our identity, not only in consciousness of the world but primarily in our own minds". What about Israel's Arab minority?

Trump is expected in Israel later this month as part of his first foreign trip and the Palestinian president said "we are looking forward to his visit soon to Bethlehem" in the West Bank, with speculation it will occur on May 23. But the cabinet-level step - two weeks before a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump - could help Netanyahu shore up relations with far-right members of his government and underpin his campaign to press Palestinians to recognize Israel as the "nation-state" of the Jewish people.

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They say the 1948 Declaration of Independence has already proclaimed a Jewish state.

The bill is a "law to protect the majority while trampling the rights of the minority", tweeted Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List parliamentary faction, which represents most of the country's Arab citizens.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 7, 2017.

"We reaffirm our commitment to peace based on justice, worldwide legitimacy and the two-state solution, the pursuit of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and living side by side with the State of Israel in security, peace and good-neighborly relations", Abbas said during a press conference with Steinmeier.

Yedidia Stern, a law professor at Israel's Bar-Ilan University and a vice president at the Israel Democracy Institute, said the proposal gives short shrift to democratic values necessary to put Arab citizens on equal footing.

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