The “nation state” law, backed by the rightwing government, passed by a vote of 62-55 and two abstentions in the 120-member parliament after months of political argument. Some Arab MPs shouted and ripped up papers after the vote.

“This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Knesset after the vote.

Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. It stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”.