The IZS Constitution Proposal contains one hundred clauses. The Declaration of Independence serves as the Preamble of the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence’s role as the Preamble stems from its function as a founding document of the Jewish Nation as it returned its land and because its acceptance by a majority of the Jewish population of the State of Israel. As proof, in honor of the State of Israel’s 60th Independence Day, no fewer than ninety Members of Knesset signed a renewed version of the Declaration of Independence, in an initiative of the Institute for Zionist Strategies. Additionally, in Clause 4 of the Constitution, it is stated that the Preamble (that is to say the Declaration of Independence) is an inseparable part of the Constitution. It also states, as a formal safeguarding measure, that a two-thirds majority of Knesset Members is required to change the Preamble of the Constitution.
Our Constitution Proposal is complete and coherent, and proposes clauses connected to the identity components of the State and governmental arrangements. The Constitution Proposal is divided into ten chapters:
- A) Basic Principles of the State (Clauses 1-4).
- B) Civil and Human Liberties (Clauses 5-20).
- C) The National Home for the Jewish People (Clauses 21-31).
- D) The President of the State (Clauses 32-36).
- E) The Legislative Authority (Clauses 37-48).
- F) The Executive Authority (Clauses 49-64).
- G) The Judiciary (Clauses 65-80).
- H) The State Comptroller (Clauses 81-88).
- I) The Status of the Constitution and other Legislation (Clauses 89-98).
- J) Ratification and Amendment of the Constitution (Clauses 99-100).
Following is a short description of each of the primary arrangements presented in each chapter and the rationale behind each one. The summary was not intended to individually represent each clause of the proposal (for more aspects of the Constitution Proposal, you can read the summary written by Prof. Avraham Diskin in the preface to the IZS’s Constitution Proposal or the comparison between the IZS proposal and that of the Israel Democracy Institute).
A. Basic Principles of the State
This chapter emphasizes the characteristics and principles of the State of Israel. The first clause in the Constitution states “The State of Israel is a Jewish State and the National Home of the Jewish People”. Additionally it states that “the Jewish People fulfills its yearning for self-determination in accordance with its historical and cultural heritage”. This serves as the identity clause that secures the Jewish-Zionist nature of the State.
Clause 2 states that “The State of Israel is a democratic state, which respects human rights in the spirit of the Jewish heritage’s principles of freedom, justice, integrity and peace”. Clause 3 states that “the State’s sovereignty inheres in its citizens”.
These clauses, and the Preamble to the Constitution (The Declaration of Independence) are unchangeable, except for a two-thirds majority of the Members of Knesset.
B. Civil and Human Liberties
This chapter contains the arrangements regarding the Human Liberties Document, by means of recognizing each person as being created in the divine image and endowed with freedom and dignity. The rights listed are the rights to life, limb, and safety, the right to preservation of privacy, the right to property, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of culture and of opinion, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and of association, the right to have a fair trial and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
It is also determined in this chapter that Israeli citizenship is to be granted and nullified according to statute. In this manner, the Constitution remains flexible in its allowing the legislature to determine the citizenship arrangements required for the State of Israel. Over the course of the meetings of the Constitution Committee of the 17th Knesset, the IZS proposed an additional version of citizenship (A description can be found in the Activities chapter).
With regard to the right to equality, the Constitution Proposal states that “All are equal before the law; rights and obligations apply equally to all citizens of the State; the failure to fulfill obligations may entail the loss of rights and eligibilities, as shall be determined by statute. In areas relating to the security of the State, the State my restrict rights, obligations, and eligibility for public office to those with appropriate security clearance”.
This chapter also deals with the relationship between the various rights, the balance between them, the restriction clause, and more.
C. The National Home of the Jewish People
This chapter deals with the resolution of the Jewish character of the State. A portion of the arrangements can already be found in the Basic Laws, for example the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, some are expressed in regular laws, and some are not mentioned in any statute.
This chapter includes many arrangements relating to the Jewish identity of the State, for example – Hebrew as the official language, the Jewish calendar as the official calendar, Independence Day as a national holiday, etc.
Similarly, the minorities’ rights are protected in terms of their days of rest, culture, language, settlement and education.
Clause 27 secures the State of Israel’s obligation to “ingather the Diaspora of Israel and to establish Jewish settlement in Israel, and [it will] allocate lands and resources for these purposes”.
D. The President of the State
This paragraph outlines the authorities and activities of the President of the State. This chapter secures the regulations that appear in the Basic Law: The President of the State.
E. The Legislative Authority
This chapter regulates the instructions relating to the activities of the Knesset, elections, etc.
Clause 40 states that the Knesset will be elected by means of a general election, that is direct, equal and done by secret ballot. This differs from the Basic Law of the Knesset, in that it does not specifically state that the elections will be state elections (as opposed to representation by region, for example), thus allowing for change in the governmental system.
This chapter states that candidates or parties will not be permitted to run for Knesset if their goals or actions promote the invalidation of the State of Israel as the National Home for the Jewish People, the invalidation of Israel’s democratic government, or support of a hostile state’s armed struggle or any other organization that opposes the State.
An interesting innovation of the Constitution is that most MKs would be permitted to initiate referendums regarding matters of sovereignty and constitutional questions. It also states that a referendum is advisory only and that its results are not binding for the Knesset or for any other authority.
Most of the powers of the Knesset and its members will be dealt with in the statutes in order to allow flexibility for the legislature.
F. The Executive Authority
This chapter delineates the activities and powers of the government. Alongside the arrangements currently in place in the Basic Law: The Government, a number of additional arrangements have been put in place. For example, Clause 53 states that a Member of Knesset who is appointed to serve as a minister in the government must terminate his Knesset Membership as would be stated by law (similar to Norwegian Law).
In addition, as can clearly be seen following the elections for the 18thKnesset, is the ruling that each political party must reach a decision, prior to the elections, as to which prime ministerial candidate it is in support of. Following the elections, the nominee for Prime Minister receiving the greater number of votes earns the right to assemble the government. Regarding the Budget Law, it was decided that if the Budget Statute is not accepted by the beginning of the fiscal year, the government is permitted to withdraw the equivalent of the twelfth portion of the previous year’s budget each month. The novelty in this change is that if the Budget Statute is not passed it is not seen as a lack of confidence in the government.
Another interesting and innovative clause is Clause 63, which resolves the relationship between the political and military echelons. The arrangements in this clause solidify some of the arrangements currently in effect in Basic Law: The Military. This clause lists the goals of the military (currently unlisted in Basic Law: The Military), and states that the IDF is responsible for the security of the State, its citizens and residents, and members of the Jewish Nation in distress.
G. The Judiciary
This chapter deals with issues concerning the activity of the Judiciary. This chapter contains new ideas regarding the appointing of judges, the appointing of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the duration of his service, the status of the religious courts and alternative arrangements for marriage and divorce.
This chapter additionally secures the right to be tried according to administrative law by means of restricting the right to petition to those petitioners who are directly affected by the results. The judicial boundaries are also dealt with here: The court may only become involved in administrative authority if it is clear that the purpose of the action is blatantly improper. It similarly states that the court will not deal with matters regarding foreign policy, security policy or fundamentals of the budget.
The clauses in this chapter emphasize the independence of Israeli Law by means of giving preference to the principles of freedom, justice, integrity and peace as enunciated in the Jewish heritage.
It should be mentioned that Clause 79 deals with the length of the Chief Justice’s term and limits it to seven years. Fortunately the 17th Knesset passed a law that dealt with this very issue.
H. State Comptroller
There are no significant changes from Basic Law: The State Comptroller.
I. The Status of the Constitution and other Legislation
This chapter discusses various issues regarding the normative status of the Constitution. For example, it has been stated that no statute shall be held to contravene the Constitution, unless a panel of nine or more Supreme Court judges determines that its purpose is blatantly inappropriate. Nonetheless, the Knesset is permitted to nullify the invalidation of the law, even after the Supreme Court decision. The Knesset must act within one hundred twenty days of the decision of the Court and the decision must be affirmed by a majority of the Members of Knesset. It is also stated that no rights or authorities exist aside from what is stated in the Constitution.
Additional regulations: In order to establish a safeguarding provision (sixty-one Members of Knesset, for example), it is required that the law be passed in the second and third readings with the determined majority. It also states that Emergency Regulations cannot amend or temporarily suspend the authority of the Constitution. The Knesset may amend this clause with a two-thirds majority.
J. Ratification and Amendment of the Constitution
This chapter regulates the way in which the Constitution will be put into effect and dictates the procedure that must be followed in order to make amendments. The Constitution shall take effect upon its acceptance by a majority of the Members of the Knesset, in a roll-call vote. Likewise, the wording of the Constitution must pass a public referendum before the second and third readings. No change may be made to the Constitution except by a majority of the Members of Knesset in a role-call vote. A public referendum must also be held in the event of a change to the Constitution.
In addition, all Basic Laws will be nullified. The remaining laws that are not included in the Constitution will be covered by new statutes.