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Israeli Cabinet approves contentious bill that defines country as nation-state of Jews

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JERUSALEM — Israel's Cabinet has approved a contentious bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

PHOTO: Palestinians inspect a house following an arson attack in Khirbet Abu Falah, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The family said their West Bank home was torched in an attack they blamed on Jewish settlers. Mohammed Abdelkarim, whose mother and sisters were inside the house when it was set alight, says Hebrew slogans were scrawled on the house. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinians inspect a house following an arson attack in Khirbet Abu Falah, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The family said their West Bank home was torched in an attack they blamed on Jewish settlers. Mohammed Abdelkarim, whose mother and sisters were inside the house when it was set alight, says Hebrew slogans were scrawled on the house. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The bill still needs to be passed in parliament to become a law, but Sunday's vote looks to further inflame tensions with Arab Israelis and Palestinians. It could also shake up Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government due to the fierce opposition of two of his more centrist partners.

The bill calls for recognizing Israel's Jewish character, institutionalizing Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation, and delisting Arabic as an official language. Opponents say the bill undermines Israel's democratic character, and rights groups have called it racist.

Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population and strongly oppose the bill.

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PHOTO: A Palestinian man inspects damage following an arson attack in Khirbet Abu Falah, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The  family said their West Bank home was torched in an attack they blamed on Jewish settlers. Mohammed Abdelkarim, whose mother and sisters were inside the house when it was set alight, says Hebrew slogans were scrawled on the house. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
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