Israel's Declaration of Independence.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A draft of the Declaration of Independence is not the property of the state and can be sold, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Sunday.
In November 2015, the Kedem Auction House listed an April 27, 1948, draft of the declaration written by Mordechai Baum in its catalog of items which would soon be up for auction.
The state obtained a court order freezing the auctioning of the declaration, claiming that Baum had been a state employee and that the draft not only had critical national significance but was legally state property.
As such, the state claimed that Baum’s sons, Daniel and Refael, had no private property right to the draft, could not sell it and that it must be turned over to be placed in the National Archives.
Rejecting the state’s arguments, Judge Tamar Bazak-Rappaport wrote that the sons had presented evidence that Mordechai was not a state employee but a volunteer at the time that he wrote the draft, in the weeks before there was a Jewish state.
While the final declaration used in the May 14, 1948, announcement of Israeli independence was and is state property, Bazak-Rappaport said there was no legal claim the state could make on drafts of the declaration if Mordechai had been a volunteer at the time.
In addition, though at a later date Mordechai did join the Justice Ministry, the court did not think that all drafts of documents that employees bring home with them are necessarily state property.
Furthermore, the court criticized the state for decades of delay in pursuing collection of the draft when its existence was no secret.
Along with the absence of evidence that Mordechai was a state employee when he wrote the draft, this delay blocked the state from claiming the document was too historically significant to allow it be publicly auctioned.
Finally, the court said that the state’s fears of losing the document were exaggerated given that the sons had committed to selling it only to a public institution, and only to one that committed to keeping the draft within the country’s borders.