Egypt on Saturday rejected a controversial law passed by the Israeli parliament that defines Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people and gives them the exclusive right to self-determination. It said the law, passed by Israel’s Knesset on Thursday, “consolidates the notion of occupation and racial segregation and undermines the chances of achieving peace”, reported AP.

In a statement, Egypt’s foreign ministry said the law could affect the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees displaced since 1948, when Israel was founded. “It undermines the chances for achieving peace and reaching a just and comprehensive solution for the Palestinian issue,” it said.

The statement also asked the international community to uphold the Palestinians’ historical and legal rights and to push for resuming discussions in support of a two-state solution.

The law had also downgraded Arabic, which will no longer be an official language alongside Hebrew, and has been downgraded to a special status, enabling its use in official institutions. The law further said that the “whole and united” Jerusalem is the Israeli capital.

Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20% of the Israeli population, called the law racist and verging on apartheid. Many Arab members of parliament criticised the ruling when it was passed after eight hours of intense debate in the Knesset. Sixty-two legislators of the 120 voted for the bill, 55 against it, and two abstained. After the vote, Arab MP Ahmed Tibi said, “I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy.”

On Friday, Egypt’s Al-Azhar Mosque, one of the most revered institutions of Sunni Muslims, criticised the Israeli law, calling it “a step that reflects repugnant racism”, reported Reuters.

In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel under the Camp David Accord, which asked the Jewish state to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. But ties between the two countries have been rocky, with Egypt demanding that Israel give up the land it occupied in the 1967 Middle East War.