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Call for Jewish Loyalty Oath Angers Arabs in Israel

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's Cabinet has approved a bill that would require new citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to a "Jewish and democratic" state.

The language has triggered charges of racism from Arab lawmakers who see it as undermining the rights of the country's Arab minority.

It has also stoked tensions with Palestinians at a time when fledgling peace talks are deadlocked over Israel's refusal to extend a moratorium on new building in West Bank Jewish settlements.

The bill is backed by Yisrael Beitenu, a hard-line nationalist party whose leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has been a vocal critic of Israel's settlement slowdown. Sunday's vote may be a way to soften Lieberman's opposition to extending the slowdown, though officials have denied there is any connection.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's Cabinet is set to approve a controversial bill that will require new citizens to pledge allegiance to a "Jewish and democratic" state.

Introducing the measure to his Cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended it as reflecting the essence of Israel. He said Sunday that many in the world are trying to blur the connection between the Jewish people and their national homeland.

Though largely symbolic, the bill has angered both the Palestinians and Israel's own Arab citizens.

Israel is demanding that the Palestinian recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The Palestinians refuse to do so for fear that it will undermine the status of Israeli Arabs and undercut the claims of Palestinian refugees.

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