Netanyahu defends contentious law in face of Arab protest

Israel's prime minister has criticized the presence of Palestinian flags at a protest against a contentious new law defining the country as a Jewish state. Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday that Palestinian flags "flying in the heart of Tel Aviv" was "conclusive evidence" that many protesters oppose Israel's existence, and proves the law is necessary.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday attacked protesters against a law recognizing Israel as the "nation-state of the Jewish people".

Thousands of people, mostly Israeli-Arabs, demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday against the controversial law, which was passed by Knesset (Israel's parliament) last month.

Speaking at the opening of a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said protesters who were waving Palestinian flags during Saturday's rally were seeking to destroy Israel.

"We have [here] conclusive evidence of the defiance against Israel and the necessity of the nation-state law," he said.

"Many of the protesters want to abolish the Law of Return, the anthem and the flag, and turn Israel into a Palestinian state," Netanyahu said. "It's clearer now more than ever that the nation-state law is needed to ensure the future of Israel as a Jewish state."

On Saturday, Netanyahu criticized the protesters, defiantly saying on Twitter "We will continue waving the Israeli flag and singing [the national anthem] Hatikva with great pride".

The Nation-State law defines Israel as a Jewish state with a "united Jerusalem" as its capital. It has also promoted Hebrew as the only official language, stripping Arabic as an official language while recognising its "special status".

The legislation risks further alienating the Arab minority who argue they already face discrimination from Israeli Jews and the government and already feel as though they are second-class citizens.

Palestinians, who have Israeli citizenship make up 21 percent of the population, are known as Israeli Arabs and have members in the Knesset.

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