International

Israel summons EU envoy in row over controversial bill

Israel summoned the EU ambassador on Thursday over allegations of interference in the passage of a controversial law which could pave the way for Jewish-only communities.

According to Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu,  Emanuele Giaufret tried to interfere with the passage of the so-called nation-state law
According to Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, Emanuele Giaufret tried to interfere with the passage of the so-called nation-state law (POOL/AFP)

Israel summoned the EU ambassador on Thursday over allegations of interference in the passage of a controversial law which could pave the way for Jewish-only communities.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the foreign ministry to "reprimand" EU envoy Emanuele Giaufret, warning "additional steps" were planned.

The summons is tied to the so-called nation-state law, which Netanyahu wants to pass by the end of the month.

The proposed legislation would allow the state to "authorise a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community."

That was seen as allowing towns to exclude Arab citizens, who account for some 17.5 percent of Israel's population, or even other Jewish communities.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, whose role is mainly symbolic, expressed concerns about the bill in a rare intervention in the country's politics.

Attorney general Avichai Mandelblit has also raised opposition to the text, which if passed could become part of the country's basic laws that serve as a de facto constitution.

According to Israel media, European diplomats have told lawmakers in the country that the law is discriminatory and against democratic principles.

Netanyahu's office accused the European Union of "interfering with Israeli legislation".

"Apparently they do not understand that Israel is a sovereign state," his office said.