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Israel's president criticizes Arab-excluding Jewish homeland bill

Israel's Knesset, or parliament, is set to debate a controversial bill that would enshrine in law that Israel is a Jewish state, where only Jews have "national rights." The bill was approved by the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, but on Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin knocked the proposed law as counter to the wishes of Israel's founders.

"The formulators of the (Israeli) Declaration of Independence, with much wisdom, insisted the Arab communities in Israel, as well as other groups, should not feel as the Jews had felt in exile," Rivlin said in a speech. The 1948 founding document set up Israel as not only a Jewish state, he said, but also a democratic one, with "complete equality" for social, religious, and cultural groups. About 20 percent of Israel's population is Arab. Israel's president holds a largely ceremonial post.