Last updated on: 5/12/2008 2:37:00 PM PST

Why Doesn't Israel Have a Constitution?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Daniel J. Elazar, JD, the late Professor of Political Science at Temple University, Philadelphia, in a 1990 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JPCA) essay titled "Israel as a Jewish State," wrote:

"The Jewish political tradition... emphasizes the ordering of the polity through a written constitution. Here Israel has had to confront a basic conflict, unresolvable under contemporary conditions. That is, whether the Torah as the traditional constitution of the Jewish people must serve as the basis for the state's basic law or whether Israel is to adopt a modern civil (or secular) constitution.

Israel shares that [Jewish political] tradition and is committed to the adoption of a formal written constitution and first tried to write one in 1949. The first Knesset was actually elected as a constituent assembly. But this basic disagreement [Torah based vs. secular based constitution] prevents the comprehensive consummation of this commitment...

Instead, a standing Constitutional, Legislative, and Judicial Committee was established in the Knesset and charged with the responsibility of drafting Basic Laws, chapter by chapter, for submission to the Knesset. Their approval, nominally by an absolute majority of the Knesset (at least sixty-one votes) gives them constitutional status. In accord with the political theory under which the state operates, the final document will be called a Basic Law and not a constitution (a term apparently reserved for use by the Jewish people as a whole)."

1990 - Daniel J. Elazar, PhD 

The Israeli Knesset website, in an entry posted under the section "The Knesset in the Government System" titled "The Constitution" contained the following (accessed Sep. 10 2007):

"Israel does not have a written constitution, even though according to the Proclamation of Independence a constituent assembly should have prepared a constitution by October 1, 1948. The delay in the preparation of a constitution resulted primarily from problems that emerged against the background of the alleged clash between a secular constitution and the Halacha (the Jewish religious law)."

"There were those who were inclined to view the Proclamation of Independence as a constitution, since it dealt with the foundations of the establishment of the state, its nature, part of its institutions, the principles of its operation and the rights of its citizens. However, in a series of decisions the Supreme Court ruled that the Proclamation of Independence does not have the validity of a constitutional law, and that it is not a supreme law, in light of which laws and regulations that contradict it are nullified."

Sep. 7, 2007 - Knesset (Israeli Parliament)