JERUSALEM – An Israeli-Arab legislator said on Sunday that he would leave Parliament for "ideological reasons" to protest the recent adoption of a controversial law that codifies the Jewish character of the state.
Labor lawyer Zuhair Bahloulsaid can no longer serve in a country that officially marginalizes the 20 percent Arab minority he represents.
Bahloul, a former popular sports channel, is considered a symbol of Jewish and Arab coexistence.
His departure marks further consequences of the explosive measure, which has also seen strong opposition from a Druze minority who serves in the military and feels offended by the legislation.
Israel's declaration of independence in 1948 defined its nature as a Jewish and democratic state. The government says that the bill merely enshrines the country's existing nature, but critics say it undermines its democratic values.
In a separate development Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a ship carrying activists en route to Gaza
It was said passengers were informed that they were "violating the legal naval blockade" and that humanitarian aid was declining in other ways Gaza could be delivered. He said the incident happened "without any extraordinary events" and that the ship was taken to an Israeli port.
The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella organization of pro-Palestinian and Islamic charities from around the world, said on Twitter Israel had "kidnapped" the ship.
The ship carrying 100 boxes of medical aid for Gaza was said to be activists from 14 countries, mainly from Europe but also from Malaysia, the US and Israel.
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip after the Islamist militant group Hamas conquered the area in 2007.
Israel says it is crucial to prevent Hamas, a group sworn to destroy Israel, from arming itself. Critics say it is a collective punishment of the 2 million people in Gaza.