(JERUSALEM) -- Israel's right wing cabinet has approved a controversial new loyalty oath for non-Jewish citizens, sparking accusations of racism from the country's Arab minority and criticism from moderate Israeli politicians.
If passed by the Israeli Knesset, non-Jewish applicants for Israeli citizenship will have to swear allegiance to a "Jewish and democratic state." Critics say the oath invites discrimination towards non-Jews.
The new ruling is expected to be passed into law in the next few months and will affect several thousand people a year, mainly Arabs who marry Israeli Arab citizens. Jewish people wishing to become new citizens of Israel will not have to take the oath.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who heads a right wing governing coalition, defended the move.
"The state of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and is a democratic state in which all of its citizens, Jews and non-Jews, enjoy full equal rights. Whoever wants to join us has to recognize us," he said.
But critics said the new oath was further evidence of the state's discrimination against non-Jews. Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, make up 20 percent of Israel's population. They have long complained of institutional discrimination against them.
Ahmed Tibi, a prominent Arab member of the Israeli Knesset said of the new oath: "Its purpose is to solidify the inferior status of Arabs by law. Netanyahu and his government are limiting the sphere of democracy and deepening the prejudice against its Arab minority."
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