Sunday, October 21, 2007

No Constitution for Israel

Last week Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced to the Knesset that a proposed constitution will be brought to a vote this year. Different teams, both official and unofficial, have been working separately on different proposals to replace Israel's Basic Laws with a constitution, and it isn't clear which proposal Olmert has in mind. One of the proposals is being prepared by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, whose chairman, MK Menachem Ben-Sasson, told Ha'aretz that a constitution would probably hurt minority rights. The thing is that in order to gain the support of the religious parties, the religious status-quo must be maintained, or rather restored to what it was in the past. That means getting rid of some of our more liberal laws and Supreme Court rulings.

Politicians think a constitution would be a magical cure to the problems of unstable governments and frequent elections (every two or three years instead of four). Proponents say the rules of the political game must be clear and hard to change, unlike the current Basic Law that can be easily changed (some with 61 out of 120 votes, others with a simple plurality). That is true, but that can be addressed by changing specific Basic Laws, especially the ones about the political system, but a constitution which would hurt Israelis' rights is worse than no constitution at all.

And in a semi-related story, a group of ultra-orthodox men attacked a male soldier and a religious woman for sitting next to each other on a bus and then attacked police officers who were called to the scene. These guys would probably like Ben-Sasson's constitution, wouldn't they?

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