Israel is often described as a Jewish state and as the locus of Jewish self-determination. How should these phrases be understood? How can they be squared with a commitment to equal citizenship for non-Jewish Israelis? This Article distinguishes between descriptive and normative answers to these questions. The descriptive answer interprets the phrases as referring to the fact that a majority of Israelis are Jewish. The normative answer reads into the phrases a special obligation to promote the common good of the Jewish people. The Article argues that the phrases are unobjectionable when taken in the descriptive sense, but problematic when understood in the normative sense. A state that is guided by the normative answer would offer inadequate protection to key interests of minorities. The critique of the normative answer also points to the more positive conclusion that Israel should foster an Israeli civic identity amongst all its citizens.
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