Israeli President Shimon Peres said in remarks published on Tuesday he was “ashamed” at a rash of legislative proposals from right-wing members of parliament targetting pro-Palestinian groups.
Peres told Israel’s most widely circulated newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth he has fielded complaints from world leaders against a proposal to bar Muslims from publicly summoning their faithful to prayer and to restrict foreign support for dovish groups.
“This is simply a march of folly,” said Peres, a former prime minister who was the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in achieving an 1993 interim accord with Palestinians.
“I am personally ashamed there are attempts being made to pass such laws,” Peres said, adding that these only “ruin our image.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has intervened to delay passage of proposals to rein in the powers of Israel’s Supreme Court and finance for left-wing groups. His cabinet has also delayed discussion of a proposal to prevent Muslim clergy inside Israel from announcing prayers by loudspeakers.
A far-right party behind the proposed restrictions argues the clerics’ pre-dawn chants are often too loud.
Peres said Israel already had noise-control laws and that lawmakers must avoid legislation with any “religious flavour.”
“You don’t have to raise the ire of all the Muslims in the Arab world against us,” he said.
Some 20 percent of Israel’s population are Palestinians descended from those who remained while others fled or were driven away in a war over Israel’s establishment in 1948. Most of Israel’s Arab citizens are Muslims.
“There is no democracy without tolerance,” Peres added. “You cannot separate Judaism from democracy. There is no such animal.”
Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Matthew Jones