EU expresses concern over Israel's Jewish nation-state law

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union on Thursday said it was concerned about a new Israeli law which declares that only Jews have the right of self determination, and said it would complicate a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

FILE PHOTO: European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini reads a statement after a meeting in Vienna, Austria, July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Israel passed the “nation-state” law earlier on Thursday after months of political argument. It was sharply criticized by the country’s Arab minority, who called it racist and verging on apartheid.

“We are concerned, we have expressed this concern and we will continue to engage with Israeli authorities in this context,” a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told a news briefing.

“We’ve been very clear when it comes to the two-state solution, we believe it is the only way forward and any step that would further complicate or prevent this solution of becoming a reality should be avoided,” she said.

The law stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”.

Turkey, a former ally of Israel, also criticized the law. “Identifying the right to self-determination as a right given only to Jews is the result of an outdated and discriminatory mentality,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

A spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan called on the international community “to react to this injustice happening in front of the entire world’s eyes”.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin criticized what he called “this racist move that amounts to erasing the Palestinian people from their homeland physically and legally”.

The law also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.

Israel’s Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the 9 million population.

The two-state solution envisaged under an international peace framework, in which Palestinians living in Gaza and the occupied West Bank would gain their own state, is already looking like a dim prospect.

Peace talks have been stalemated for several years and Israeli settlements in the occupied lands have expanded, despite condemnation from the EU and other bodies.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Stamp