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Editorial: Israel's hard-line attitude not helping peace process in Middle East

Future prospects for peace in the Middle East are looking more evasive as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration is assuming extremely hard-line policies.

In July, the Israeli Knesset, or the national legislature, passed a nation-state bill into law, which revises existing basic laws and stipulates that the "right to exercise national self-determination" in the country is "unique to the Jewish people." Right-wing forces backed the new legislation, which critics say appears to treat the country's Jewish citizens as superior to non-Jewish residents.

In particular, what's controversial about the law is the provision that sets Hebrew as the only official language, and offers no status to Arabic, which is used widely by Arab Israelis -- who make up about 20 percent of the total population.

Some 30,000 Arab Israelis recently took part in a protest against the new law. It is only natural for minority Arabs to be angry against the legislation, saying, "We are being treated as second-class citizens."

Israel was established by the Jewish people in 1948 after they went through the hardships of the Holocaust. The Netanyahu administration must have wanted to emphasize the nationalism of the Jewish people on the 70th anniversary of the country's founding.

However, the declaration of independence and the basic laws called for not only the establishment of a Jewish state but also equality among religions and peoples, extolling the goal of becoming a democratic state.

It is not wise for the Knesset to create a cause of friction by not fairly treating its Arab citizens, who are the compatriots of the Palestinians with whom Israel intends to achieve peace and coexistence.

What is also worrisome about the new law is its promotion of the establishment and development of Jewish settlements as "national values." Jewish settlements are residential plots expanded forcibly in formerly Palestinian land areas occupied and annexed during the third Arab-Israeli War of 1967. Their existence has always blocked peace talks, which are supposed to be about sharing land.

The United Nations Security Council has criticized the settlement activities as illegal and requested their suspension. Promoting such activities in the face of such criticism will not be accepted internationally.

Behind the hard-line posture of the Netanyahu administration is the one-sided support given to Israel by the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump. The United States has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moved its embassy to the city.

Meanwhile, the American administration suspended more than half of its financial support for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and has given extremely cold treatment toward the Palestinians.

The seven decades of history since Israel's foundation has been seven decades of conflicts. An appropriate resolution cannot be expected by maintaining a hard-line attitude.

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