BASIC LAWS OF ISRAEL
These are the laws that bound the sovereign state of Israel together or better still known as the laws of the constitution. Majority of the laws were given birth out of laws from the Israeli Declaration of Independence. These laws can only be amended by votes from the supermajority quota in the Knesset. The basic laws of Israel were enacted to protect the civil rights of the country’s citizens even though they have the backing of the Israeli’s Supreme Court. The civil rights law constitutes of the Liberty, Human Dignity and the Basic Law and is backed squarely by the apex court, giving it the right to nullify any injunction that hinders it from taking its full course. In addition, the basic laws were adopted to dictate the roles of the individual major government agencies and their interrelationship with one another and the government.
The basic laws of Israel were designed to act as a de facto constitution, a foundation for the main constitution to come by later and so were made to serve as a reference for the upcoming constitution. However, this was suspended since the year 1950. Presently, Israel operates under a constitution culled from the common law, provision of the formal statutes and the material constitution (arranged from previous situations).
The sovereign state of Israel does not have a formal constitution like other countries do but have what is termed an “unwritten constitution”. The state also enacted and implemented the Basic Laws which has provision on the mode of operation of the government and its agencies and also the rights of its citizens.
The Basic Laws became legally constitutional when the then Supreme Court President Aharon Bark (1995-2006) declared it valid. It was used throughout his tenure. However, not all the members on the bench of the Supreme Court were in support as a judge of the Supreme Court, Mishael Cheshin was against it.
When Israel declared independence on 14 May, 1948, part of the plans was to have well organized constitution by October 1, 1948 which will be prepared by an assembly of representatives from the diverse groups that make up the state of Israel. However, the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion was a major opposition to the formation of this constitution and also the diverse failed to have a common stand on the basic fundamentals on the image of the state, vision for the future and the general purpose of the state.
However, since then, many of these groups have come out to declare support for the formation of this legal constitution and have submitted their opinions on how the constitution should look like.
In addition to the failure in meeting the deadline to formulate the more presentable constitution was because of the clashes the baby sovereign state had with its neighboring countries including the Arabs. Also, part of the plan included during the Declaration of Independence was to hold general elections in 1949 to elect members that will represent the different groups in the Constituent assembly. However, this assembly had deliberations which ended without tangible results or recommendations for the purposed official constitution.
This and the opposition of the then Prime Minister made the constituent assembly to come up after just four meetings with the “First Knesset” which was known as the Transition Law on February 16, 1949. Thus, of the three parliaments of the sovereign countries in the world, the Israeli, United Kingdom and New Zealand Parliaments do not have an official constitution binding them together. Thus, the “Knesset” is the front liner of the constituent assembly of preparing a constitution since none was prepared for the entire state of Israel.
Because of these issues, majority of cases that should have been solved by the constitution are left at the mercy of the judiciary and technically, the Basic Laws does not clearly have more authority than the regular laws for legislation and besides, no deadline has been set for the compilation of this official constitution.
THE HARARI DECISION
The Harari Decision was the result of the meeting of the first Knesset in 1950. The Knesset, Law and Justice committees were in charge of preparing a makeshift constitution since the work of preparing the official constitution was delayed. Every piece of the makeshift constitution prepared was termed a Basic Law and when the makeshift constitution was finished, it was compiled to make a total set of Basic Laws.
9 Basic Laws were made in between 1958 and 1988 which dictated the activities of the individual public agencies of the state. In addition, human rights concern and the authority of the highest court in the land to declare judicial reviews known as Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation where passed as two Basic Laws having votes of 32-21 and 23-0 respectively in 1992. Also in the same year, the then President or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ruled that the full respect accorded to the formal constitution should be dished also to the Basic Laws.
PROCEDURE FOR AMENDMENT
Under the de jure parliamentary which the Knesset operates, it has the power to amend or pass a law simply by voting and having a majority of the house in support. This also includes passing laws that may directly or indirectly have conflicting results with any of the Basic Laws of Israel. However, there are some Basic Laws which have strict requirements which must be met before it can either be amended or struck out. Some of this special Basic Laws include Article 44, which prevents any of the laws from being amended unless there is the support of 80 members out of the total 120 members of the Knesset and Article 4 (Knesset Basic Laws) which dictates the mode of election for members of the Knesset assembly and can only be touched, amended if there is support for it from 61 members out of the total number of members in the assembly.
In addition, the Freedom of Occupation (Government Basic Laws) can be amended only when a majority of the members of the house votes in favor of the amendment.
LIST OF THE BASIC LAWS OF ISRAEL
1958, updated in 1987