Washington, Dec. 9 - Israel is highlighting its commitment to human rights ahead of the annual worldwide celebration on December 10.
"The State of Israel stands proud, proud of its record as a vibrant, pluralistic democracy -- a democracy that has maintained its values despite security challenges faced by no other nation on earth," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video posted online, citing the country's liberties for citizens of different religions, genders and sexual orientations.
Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, and its laws guarantee freedoms of religion and speech among others.
In a year when anti-regime revolutions throughout the world have met repressive and brutal resistance from dictatorships Israel is “proud to be a country that is governed by laws, not men, where protests in town squares is a way of life,” Netanyahu said.
"We hope that in the coming year we’ll see the advance of human rights in a region where they’ve long been denied, but I assure you one thing -- Israel will continue to proudly raise the torch for freedom and human rights. So anyone seeking to genuinely build democratic societies in the Middle East should know that they will always have a partner and friend in the one and only Jewish state -- the democratic State of Israel."
Elsewhere, 2000 protesters participated Friday morning in the third annual human rights march in Tel Aviv. They drew attention to recent social justice protests that swept the country during the summer and highlighted concerns with recent Knesset bills that they said restricted Israeli democracy.
Yet on Wednesday, Netanyahu froze Cabinet discussion on one of the most contentious bills, effectively killing it before a Knesset vote. The measure would have limited foreign funding to political NGO’s in Israel, which some had said would infringe on the nation’s commitment to freedom of speech.
This week, Netanyahu effectively killed one controversial bill that critics said could have compromised freedom of speech by limiting foreign funding to some Israeli non-governmental organizations. By withdrawing his support in the cabinet, Netanyahu ensured the legislation could not move forward.