Basic Laws of Israel

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The Basic Laws of Israel (Hebrew: חוקי היסוד‎, ħuqey ha-yesod; Arabic: القوانين الأساسية لإسرائيل‎‎) are the constitutional laws of the State of Israel. 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. While these laws were originally meant to be draft chapters of a future Israeli constitution, they are already used on a daily basis by the courts as a formal constitution. Israel currently functions according to an uncodified constitution consisting of both material constitutional law, based upon cases and precedents, common law, and the provisions of these formal statutes. As of today, the Basic Laws do not cover all constitutional issues, and there is no deadline set to the completion of the process of merging them into one comprehensive constitution. There is no clear rule determining the precedence of Basic Rules over regular legislation, and in many cases this issue is left to the interpretation of the judicial system.


Israel's declaration of independence stated that a formal constitution will be formulated and adopted no later than 1 October 1948.[1] The deadline stated in the declaration of independence proved unrealistic in light of the war between the new state and its Arab neighbors. General elections were arranged on 25 January 1949, in order to elect the Constituent Assembly which would approve the new state's constitution. The Constituent Assembly convened on February 1949. It held several discussions about the constitution without reaching an agreement.

For a number of reasons, Israel's first prime-minister, David Ben-Gurion, did not wish to create a constitution.[2] After only four meetings, the Constituent Assembly adopted on 16 February 1949, the Transition Law, by which means it became the "First Knesset"[3] The Knesset is, therefore, a Sovereign Parliament, like the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Parliament of New Zealand, that is not bound by a codified constitution. Because the Constituent Assembly did not prepare a constitution for Israel, the Knesset is the heir of the Assembly for the purpose of fulfilling this function.[3]

The Harari Decision

In 1950, the first Knesset came to what was called the Harari Decision. Rather than draft a full constitution immediately, they would postpone the work, charging the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee with drafting the document piecemeal. Each chapter would be called a Basic Law, and when all had been written they would be compiled into a complete constitution.[4]

In 1992, Aharon Barak, President of the Supreme Court (equivalent to Chief Justice), declared a "constitutional revolution" and attached constitutional ascendancy to the Basic Laws of Israel.[5] The Basic Laws are various pieces of legislation from the Knesset that outline the nation's political structure.

Between 1958 and 1988 the Knesset passed nine Basic Laws, all of which pertained to the institutions of state. In 1992, it passed the first two Basic Laws that related to human rights and the basis of the Supreme Court's recently declared powers of judicial review. These are Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. These were passed by votes of 32–21 and 23–0, respectively.

List of the Basic Laws of Israel

Year passed Basic Law Description
1958; updated in 1987 The Knesset States legislative functions of the parliament of the state.
1960 Israel Lands Ensures state lands remain national property.
1964 The President of the State Deals with status, election, qualifications, powers, and procedures of work of the President of the State.
1968 The Government (Replaced by the 1992 law and then restored, with amendments, by the 2001 law.)
1975 The State Economy Regulates payments made by and to the state. Authority to mint currency.
1976 The Military Upholds constitutional and legal basis for the operation of the Israel Defense Forces. Subordinates military forces to the government, deals with enlistment, and states that no extra-legal armed force outside the Israel Defense Forces may be set up or maintained.
1980 Jerusalem Law Establishes the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; secures the integrity and unity of Jerusalem; deals with holy places; secures rights of members of all religions; grants special preference with regards to development.
1984 The Judiciary Deals with authority, institutions, principle of independence, openness, appointment, qualifications, and powers of the judiciary.
1988 The State Comptroller Deals with the powers, tasks, and duties of supervisor of government bodies, ministries, institutions, authorities, agencies, persons, and bodies operating on behalf of the state.
1992 Human Dignity and Liberty Declares basic human rights in Israel are based on the recognition of the value of man, the sanctity of his life and the fact that he is free. Defines human freedom as right to leave and enter the country, privacy (including speech, writings, and notes), intimacy, and protection from unlawful searches of one's person or property. This law includes instruction regarding its own permanence and protection from changes by means of emergency regulations.
1992 The Government Provided for the direct election of the Prime Minister at the time of Knesset elections. Dealt with principles of service of the Prime Minister, formation and function of government, qualifications for ministers (replaced by the 2001 law).
1992 Freedom of Occupation The law laid down the right of "every citizen or inhabitant to engage in any occupation, profession or trade" unless "a law that corresponds with the values of the State of Israel, and which was designed for a worthy end," determines otherwise (replaced by the 1994 law).
1994 Freedom of Occupation Guarantees every Israel national or resident's "right to engage in any occupation, profession or trade". Any violation of this right shall be "by a law befitting the values of the State of Israel, enacted for a proper purpose, and to an extent no greater than is required".
2001 The Government Overturns the 1992 law, and restores the 1968 system with some amendments.
2014 Referendum Establishes that if the Israeli government adopts a decision or signs an agreement stipulating that the laws, jurisdiction, and administrative authority of the State of Israel will no longer apply to a certain geographical area, such agreement or decision must either be adopted via a treaty approved by 80 MKs, or by an absolute majority vote in a referendum.[6] This means that Israeli sovereign territory (East Jerusalem, Golan Heights and any land within the 1949 armistice lines), under Israeli law, can only be relinquished either through a treaty approved by over 80 MKs, in which case a referendum is not necessary, or before a treaty is valid, it must be approved by an absolute majority vote in a referendum.[7]
2014 Basic Law proposal: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People

See also


  1. "Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel". 1948-05-14. Retrieved 2015-05-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Israel's Documented Story: Who Needs a Constitution?". 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2015-05-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "The Constituent Assembly". Retrieved 2012-04-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Basic Laws - Introduction". Retrieved 22 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Basic laws functioning as a constitution". Retrieved 2012-04-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Harkov, Lahav (12 March 2014). "Knesset passes first Basic Law in 22 years: Referendum on land concessions". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 22 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Harkov, Lahav (12 February 2014). "Bill reinforcing referendum on peace talks moves toward final vote". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2015-05-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Other sources

  • Cohen, Asher; Bernard Susser (2000). Israel and the Politics of Jewish Identity: The Secular-Religious Impasse. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0801863455.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Jacobsohn, Gary J. (1994). Apple of Gold: Constitutionalism in Israel and the United States. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691029535.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mazie, Steven V (2006). Israel's Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739114858.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Existing Basic Laws: Full Texts (English), the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) website, official translations - NOTE: The 1968 Basic Law: the Government translation is missing provisions, probably amendments added later on. As opposed to the 1968 and 2001 basic Law: the Government translations, the 1992 Basic Law: the Government uses the term "Acting PM" to refer to an "Interim Prime Minister" as well. The 2001 Law, which is in effect, present all provision in the translation, however, there are some lines missing. It is recommended to use the Hebrew laws official publications in the Knesset website.

External links