Democracy Institute offers constitution

Constitution by Consensus document outlines personal and human rights.

idi proomo 88 (photo credit: )
idi proomo 88
(photo credit: )
Israel would maintain the basic structure of its political system pieced together by legislation and judicial rulings over the last 58 years under a draft constitution released Monday by the Israel Democracy Institute to Jewish leaders in New York. The "Constitution by Consensus," as its authors call it, also enumerates personal and human rights granted to Israelis and specifically categorizes Israel as a Jewish state.
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Written by a host of legal scholars and supervised by former High Court of Justice chief justice Meir Shamgar, the draft constitution takes its name from the fact that the authors consulted hundreds of leaders in all aspects and communities of Israeli society when preparing the document over four years. According to Uri Dromi, the IDI director of international outreach, the draft is based on mutual understanding. "It was gratifying to see that all Israelis, Jew and non-Jew, religious and non-religious, rich and poor, understand that survival is based on compromise," he said. "They may not like the decisions that have to be suggested, but they all realize the necessity of making them." Though the IDI constitution offers no great shake-ups of the Israeli political system, there are key provisions that would mean certain changes in the behavior of the state. Section 15 of the draft expressly prohibits "torture" or the treatment of "any person in a manner which is cruel, inhumane, or dehumanizing." Currently, the IDF does employ torture and pressure tactics when conducting interrogations that are deemed necessary to the security of the state. Though Section 187 allows for the suspension of certain human rights when a state of emergency is declared, it does not allow for the suspension of the prohibition of torture. The draft also apparently outlaws administrative detention, which the state, mostly via the IDF, currently uses to hold people it deems security threats for indefinite lengths of time without judicial review. "A person who shall be arrested on suspicion of committing a crime is entitled to be brought before a judicial authority for a review of his arrest as early as possible," Section 27 says. That section also guarantees the right of an arrested party to legal counsel "without any unreasonable delay." Under Section 25, the constitution expressly grants full freedom of movement "within the country" to "every person lawfully in Israel." The constitution, does not, however, specify which territory constitutes Israel. The "Freedom of Movement" clause also specifically grants the right to every person to leave Israel, which could have ramifications for people such as former nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, whom the government considers security threats based on their knowledge of national security affairs. In terms of the political system, the IDI draft limits the amount of government ministers to 18 - seven fewer than the current government of 25 sworn into office on Thursday. It also stresses that the budget of the state, while being "directed towards growth [and] towards economic stability," should work to reduce "economic inequality, while preserving standards of transparency, efficiency, fairness, and accountability." Section 110, though lacking in detail, would therefore seem to give general guidelines on budget priorities for future governments and would allow challenges to the budget to be brought to the High Court as a matter of judicial review, the principle of which is reserved solely for the High Court under Section 163. In presenting the draft constitution, IDI President Arye Carmon said the document represented the best hope to date for laying the base for a lasting legal structure in Israel. "In anticipation of the time when Israel's demanding social needs would call for a clear set of ground rules, the IDI has been hard at work, bringing together the varied sectors that make up Israel's multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, to create a draft constitution that represents the best road for gaining consensus," he said. "With Jews from over 37 different countries, an Israeli Arab population of nearly 20% and degrees of Jewish observance ranging from avowed secularists to the most ultra of Orthodox, clearly much discussion was needed."