Horses, marchers on Jerusalem Day_370 .
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman )
The proposed “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People” was
first endorsed by 40 Knesset members in the previous session. This proposed law
provides: “Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people in which the Jewish
people fulfill its yearning for self-determination in accordance with its
cultural and historical legacy.”
The law did not come to a vote because
the haredi parties communicated their intention to veto its passage – a right
granted to them by the coalition agreements. The haredi parties feel they were
tricked into allowing passage of the previous two Basic Laws in 1992 and since
then have doggedly opposed any basic law, no matter what its provisions
But today, the stars are differently aligned. First, the coalition
agreement between Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi (with the knowledge and consent
of Yesh Atid) mandates the passage of this basic law. Further, the coalition
agreements do not give any party a veto.
There is a broad consensus that
Israel should be a Jewish, democratic state. But the Jewish character of that
equation has been diluted by 21 years of Supreme Court decisions.
verified by Dr. Aviad Bakshi’s research, conducted for the Institute for Zionist
Why has the Supreme Court consistently weakened the Jewish
character? Some would say that it results from the personal predilections of the
justices, who are chosen through horse trading in closed proceedings by a select
committee which the justices themselves dominate. But Dr. Bakshi argues that a
major cause is the imbalance in the basic laws which the court has declared to
be its binding authority.
For the first 44 years, before Justice Aharon
Barak’s “constitutional revolution,” the Supreme Court applied common law to
carefully balance Israel’s interests as a Jewish state with its goal to protect
minority rights. And it succeeded in keeping Israel a Jewish democratic state.
But when in the early ’90s the Supreme Court unilaterally changed the Harari
Knesset decision of 1950 to declare that all of the basic laws ultimately
destined to be integrated by Knesset action into a constitution are suddenly,
metaphysically morphed into a court-ordered instant constitution, the basis for
the important and delicate balance was destroyed.
For this new,
judge-created constitution consists of nine basic laws (out of a total of 12)
delineating democratic procedures and interests but not one detailing national
Jewish interests. The new Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish
People is designed to bring the two elements of our national being into balance
This new basic law has been relentlessly attacked by Haaretz
editorial writers and others sharing its agenda.
Most of the objections
have been disingenuous. One claim is that the law does not assert democratic
values and is thus unbalanced in favor of “Jewish” at the expense of
“democratic.” But the very need and purpose of the law is to strengthen the
Jewish character of the state. The state’s democratic nature is already rooted
in nine basic laws. The new basic law, once enacted and enforced together with
the nine existing laws, would rectify the current imbalance and bring the
elements into harmony.
Another claim is that the law would demote Arabic
by making Hebrew the only official language. But despite the carry-over of
Ordinance 82 from the days of the British Mandate, Arabic today is not de facto
an official language, as demonstrated in a research study published by the
Institute for Zionist Strategies.
The new basic law does not demote the
status of the Arabic language, it confirms and even enhances the current
But all of these criticisms are not directed at the heart of the
proposed legislation, and all alleged shortcomings surely can be corrected in
the final text of the law to emerge from the legislative process.
real objection of those most vociferous in opposition is to the very essence of
a Jewish state. The proposed basic law reaffirms our character and destiny as
the only Jewish state in the world.
This threatens those who do not want
to be different or who want to merge into perceived universal norms. The law
reinforces the status of Israel as the Jewish nation state envisioned by the
League of Nations, the UN, and as proudly proclaimed by our own Declaration of
Simply put: Those who fundamentally oppose the basic law do
not want a Jewish state. Global hostility to Israel as the Jewish-Zionist
state must not find support within Israel. Israel public opinion polls confirm
that the people of Israel overwhelmingly want a Jewish state. We have dreamed of
a sovereign Jewish state for 2,000 years, and that dream, now realized, is still
vital and still inspires our people.
Our government demands that others
recognize us as a Jewish state. Surely, it is appropriate that we ourselves do
so. The democratic character of our state is central and integral to our
institutions of government. It is securely ensconced in nine of our basic laws.
We now have the duty and opportunity to codify our Jewish character.The
author, an attorney in Israel and the US, is the founding president of the
Institute for Zionist Strategies.
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