Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted unanimously in favour of the bill in first reading on Wednesday, with about half of all deputies in attendance.
It will now be studied in committee before returning to parliament for a second vote.
Both Arabic and Hebrew are official languages of Israel, but while the vast majority of Israeli Arabs speak Hebrew, Arabic is not widely spoken among the Jewish population.
The bill was introduced by lawmaker Oren Hazan, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, who said it was meant to reach out to Arab Israelis.
The Israeli MK said: “Language is a door to culture…I am looking reality in the eyes and I understand there is no possibility to walk to peace without understanding each other”.
The vote comes amid a month of escalating tensions, as a wave of deadly terror attacks has spread across Israel and the West Bank, leaving 11 Israelis dead and over 100 injured. At least 59 Palestinians have died, of which 36 are confirmed to have been killed during or after committing an act of terror. A number of Palestinians have been killed in violent clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Gaza, after stone throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks.
Israel’s 1.7 million-strong Arab minority make up approximately 20% of the total population and participates fully in Israel’s political system. There are currently 17 Israeli Arab members in the 120-seat Knesset, an increase from 12 in the previous Knesset.
Arab, Druze and other minorities in Israel are guaranteed equal rights under law.