Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Sunday, 31 May 2009 17:16 UK

Israeli government rejects oath of loyalty

Palestinian burns Israeli flag (file photo)
Loyalty to the state has long been a controversial subject in Israel

The Israeli cabinet has rejected a controversial proposal to require Israeli citizens to take an oath of loyalty to the Jewish state.

Under the plan, introduced by the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, citizenship would be granted only to those who swore allegiance.

The proposal angered Israel's Arab minority, which comprises 20% of Israel's population.

The plan can still be brought before parliament, but is unlikely to succeed.

The measure was thrown out by eight votes to three at a meeting of the Cabinet on Sunday.

Yisrael Beiteinu , which won the third most seats in February's election, sought to introduce the oath as well as a ban on annual commemorations denouncing the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Comprise 20% of the population
Descend from Palestinian inhabitants pre-1948
Hold 13 seats in the 120-member parliament

During the election campaign, the party focused on perceived disloyalty among Israeli Arabs, drawing widespread criticism as well as support.

Many Israeli Arabs mark the Nakba , or the Catastrophe, of 1948 when about 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their ancestral homes as Israel claimed its independence.

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