A Jewish and Democratic State

A Jewish and Democratic State

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"A Jewish and Democratic State" is the definition of the nature and character of the State of Israel, as the Jewish nature was first defined within the Declaration of Independence of 1948, and the "Democratic" character was first officially added to the "Jewish" nature in the amendment to the Basic Law: the Knesset
Basic Laws of Israel
The Basic Laws of Israel are a key component of Israel's constitutional law. These laws deal with the formation and role of the principal state's institutions, and the relations between the state's authorities. Some of them also protect civil rights...

 that was passed in 1985 (amendment 9, clause 7A).

Background


The characteristics of the state Israel as well as its Declaration of Independence identify Israel as "A Jewish Nation state", hence, a state that is influenced by its affinity towards the Jewish heritage
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 and Tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

. These characteristics can be found in Israel's Emblems (See, Emblem of Israel, wherein the Menorah of the Temple is shown, as well as the Flag of Israel
Flag of Israel
The flag of Israel was adopted on October 28, 1948, five months after the country's establishment. It depicts a blue Star of David on a white background, between two horizontal blue stripes...

 wherein the Star of David
Star of David
The Star of David, known in Hebrew as the Shield of David or Magen David is a generally recognized symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism.Its shape is that of a hexagram, the compound of two equilateral triangles...

 appears), as well as its official institutions (seeing that there is a Religious Services Ministry, as well as the status of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel
Chief Rabbinate of Israel
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel is recognized by law as the supreme halakhic and spiritual authority for the Jewish people in Israel. The Chief Rabbinate Council assists the two chief rabbis, who alternate in its presidency. It has legal and administrative authority to organize religious...

), and in its legislations (see, Law of Return
Law of Return
The Law of Return is Israeli legislation, passed on 5 July 1950, that gives Jews the right of return and settlement in Israel and gain citizenship...

, Israeli nationality law
Israeli nationality law
Israel's nationality law defines the terms through which one can be granted citizenship of the state of Israel. It also includes the Right of return for Jewish diaspora...

, and the Status of the World Zionist Organization - Jewish Agency for Israel law).

The Jewish and Democratic Nature of the State of Israel


The Jewish nature of the state of Israel was outlined already in Israel's Declaration of Independence
Declaration of independence
A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state...

, as it was read during the Proclamation ceremony in 14 May 1948. The document defines the state of Israel as "A Jewish State in Eretz-Israel [land of Israel]", while the word "Democratic" is absent throughout the entire document. However, the document does: and appeals to:
Since no constitution was passed, and the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Israel
The Supreme Court is at the head of the court system and highest judicial instance in Israel. The Supreme Court sits in Jerusalem.The area of its jurisdiction is all of Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. A ruling of the Supreme Court is binding upon every court, other than the Supreme...

 ruled that the Declaration of Independence document is a guiding principle that expresses the vision and the credo of the people regarding the character, the goals and values of Israeli society and its state, the need to legally define the Jewish nature and Democratic character of the State of Israel arose. In Eleventh's Knesset elections
Israeli legislative election, 1984
Elections for the eleventh Knesset were held in Israel on 23 July 1984. Voter turnout was 78.8%. The results saw the Alignment return to being the largest party in the Knesset, a status it had lost in 1977...

 (and in many other occasions), religious ideas were brought up that were aimed at canceling the democratic character of Israel, and replacing it with a theocratic Halachic state
Halachic state
The concept of a Halachic state refers to a hypothetical Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel governed by Halacha. In such a state, Jews would be required to adhere to the laws of the Torah, and non-Jews have the status of ger toshav and would be required to follow Noahide law.-Stances of...

, and thus in the eleventh Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 session, the amendment to the Basic Law: the Knesset was passed (to become effective as of the Twelfth Knesset), that stipulated that:

Since then the definition of "a Jewish and Democratic State" was used in additional Basic Laws of Israel
Basic Laws of Israel
The Basic Laws of Israel are a key component of Israel's constitutional law. These laws deal with the formation and role of the principal state's institutions, and the relations between the state's authorities. Some of them also protect civil rights...

: Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation
Basic Laws of Israel
The Basic Laws of Israel are a key component of Israel's constitutional law. These laws deal with the formation and role of the principal state's institutions, and the relations between the state's authorities. Some of them also protect civil rights...

, that were legislated in 1992, and amended in 1994. These laws specifically states that:

The boundaries of the definition of "a Jewish and Democratic State" are a subject to a public discourse in Israel, in context of the relation between state and government. Already in 1994, the question whether Israeli Government
Cabinet of Israel
The Cabinet of Israel is a formal body composed of government officials called ministers, chosen and led by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must appoint members based on the distribution of votes to political parties during legislative elections, and its composition must be approved by a...

 (i.e. the Cabinet) is permitted to limit the import of Non-Kosher
Kashrut
Kashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...

 meat, despite the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation arose. Initially, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled that the government is not permitted to limit such import of non-Kosher meat. However, after the Knesset passed some amendments to the basic laws, the limit was included.

Another debate was on the issue of whether the state is permitted to limit the leasing of national land in certain areas of Israel, as for only Jews. The limitation initially seemed to be in contradiction with the Democratic character of Israel, but some have argued that it is essential in order to preserve the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

The Diversity of Israeli Society has produced few main approaches to the definition of "a Jewish and Democratic State", which the current commonly accepted approach is the combination of all of them: "A Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 State" (Halachic state
Halachic state
The concept of a Halachic state refers to a hypothetical Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel governed by Halacha. In such a state, Jews would be required to adhere to the laws of the Torah, and non-Jews have the status of ger toshav and would be required to follow Noahide law.-Stances of...

), "National-Religious
Religious Zionism
Religious Zionism is an ideology that combines Zionism and Jewish religious faith...

 State", "National Culture State", "The State of the Jewish People", "The Jewish State", and "The Jewish State and the State of all its citizens".

Israeli High Court of Justice's commentary


The Fifteenth Knesset again amended the "Basic Law: The Knesset", in order to enforce the limit not only upon a party of candidates list but also upon each individual, separately:

Towards the Elections for the 16th Knesset, the Israeli Central Elections Committee
Israeli Central Elections Committee
The Israeli Central Elections Committee is the body charged under the Knesset Elections Law of 1969 to carry out the elections for the upcoming Knesset. The committee is composed of Knesset members representating various parliamentary groups and is chaired by a Supreme Court Justice...

 has disqualified the candidacy of Azmi Bishara
Azmi Bishara
Azmi Bishara , a former member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, is a Palestinian intellectual, academic, politician, and writer.In 2007, Bishara fled Israel and resigned from the Knesset after being questioned by police on suspicion of aiding and passing information to the enemy during...

 and of Ahmad Tibi
Ahmad Tibi
Ahmad Tibi is an Arab-Israeli politician and leader of Ta'al , an Arab party in Israel. He currently serves as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He was elected on a joint ticket with the United Arab List to serve in Israel's parliament, the Knesset...

 based upon this law. The petition to disqualify right-wing activist Baruch Marzel
Baruch Marzel
Baruch Meir Marzel is an Israeli politician. Marzel, an American-born Orthodox Jew, lives in the Jewish community of Hebron in Tel Rumeida with his wife and nine children. He is the leader of the Religious Zionism-orientated Jewish National Front party...

 was rejected. As a result of this rejection, petitions were submitted to the High Court of Justice against all three rulings of the Central Elections Committee. Therefore, the clause within the Basic Law: The Knesset, was now a subject to a thorough judicial examination by the High Court of Justice, and eventually the High Court of Justice had turned around the former two ruling by Central Elections Committee, and approved the latter, hence, all three candidates were permitted to participate in the elections.

Regarding the meaning of the definition of "Jewish and Democratic State" in this section of the law, then President of the Supreme Court of Israel, Aharon Barak
Aharon Barak
Aharon Barak is a Professor of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and a lecturer in law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Yale Law School, and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law....

, wrote that a narrow interpretation should be given to it, since it limits a basic right, in contrast to the broader interpretation that should be given to laws concerning Human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

.

Concerning the minimal interpretation of "a Jewish State", Justice Aharon Barak ruled that:

According to Chief Justice Barak the minimal definition of "a Democratic State" is:

Therefore:

Chief Justice Barak pondered whether every candidates list objecting the existence of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State should be disqualified, or a "Probabilistic standard" should be adopted, wherein according to this standard, a candidates list may be disqualified only if there is a real chance that it will actually succeed in promoting its goals that are in contradictory to the nature of Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State. Eventually, he left that question open for future judicial debate, stating that "it requires more review".

See also

  • Halachic state
    Halachic state
    The concept of a Halachic state refers to a hypothetical Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel governed by Halacha. In such a state, Jews would be required to adhere to the laws of the Torah, and non-Jews have the status of ger toshav and would be required to follow Noahide law.-Stances of...

     (a Jewish-theocratic State)
  • Der Judenstaat
    Der Judenstaat
    Der Judenstaat is a book written by Theodor Herzl and published in 1896 in Leipzig and Vienna by M. Breitenstein's Verlags-Buchhandlung...

     (German, The Jewish State; Theodor Herzl
    Theodor Herzl
    Theodor Herzl , born Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl was an Ashkenazi Jew Austro-Hungarian journalist and the father of modern political Zionism and in effect the State of Israel.-Early life:...

    's book)
  • Homeland for the Jewish people (the national Israeli expression)
  • Jewish state
    Jewish state
    A homeland for the Jewish people was an idea that rose to the fore in the 19th century in the wake of growing anti-Semitism and Jewish assimilation. Jewish emancipation in Europe paved the way for two ideological solutions to the Jewish Question: cultural assimilation, as envisaged by Moses...

  • Ethnic democracy
    Ethnic democracy
    Ethnic democracy is a political system that combines a structured ethnic dominance with democratic, political and civil rights for all. Both the dominant ethnic group and the minority ethnic groups have citizenship and are able to fully participate in the political process. Ethnic democracy differs...

  • Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People

External links