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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the Knesset Plenary Hall session ahead of the vote on the National Law on July 18, 2018. Photo: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/AFP/Getty Images

Israel's parliament passed a controversial bill Thursday recognizing the country as the national and historical home of the Jewish people, granting Jews the "unique" right to "exercise national self-determination," reports The Times of Israel.

Why it matters: Israel's status as a Jewish state had not previously been enshrined in law. Among other things, the largely symbolic legislation reiterates that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and officially names Hebrew as the "state's language." The proposal generated passionate opposition in a country where 20.9% of the population identifies as Arab.

Axios contributor Barak Ravid explains:

  • The law was originally proposed more than 8 years ago when every few years Netanyahu raised it as part of an attempt to rally his right wing nationalist political base.
  • The law that passed is a diluted version of previous drafts which included a clause to legalize the formation of villages and small towns for Jews only, a clause which put Israel's Jewish identity above its democratic system, and a clause that would order the courts to make verdicts according to Jewish law.
  • The law that passed is mostly symbolic and will almost have no practical meaning. Nevertheless, it is highly offensive to Israel's Arab citizens, who see the law as another step by the government to sideline them and prevent them from being treated equally.

Go deeper

29 mins ago - Health

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 35 mins ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani

Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines.

Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.