In 1992, Israel passed its Basic Law on human dignity and liberty, which guarantees to its citizens certain protections roughly equivalent to those found in the American Bill of Rights. Aharon Barak, then a justice of Israel’s supreme court—and soon thereafter its president—argued at the time that this law gave the high court broad authority to strike down laws that in any way violated “human dignity,” a concept Barak believed should be determined by the values of the “enlightened community.” After seeing the court’s sweeping use of this theory, and the power arrogated by its attendant bureaucracy, some Israelis began to argue that the country needed a Basic Law that would serve as a counterweight and enshrine the country’s Jewish character as an inviolate constitutional principle. The result, following seven years of parliamentary wrangling, was the Basic Law the Knesset passed last week, defining Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people.” In conversation with Jonathan Silver, Eugene Kontorovich explains why this law is necessary, and rebuts some arguments made by its critics. (Audio, 25 minutes. Options for download and streaming are available at the link below.)
Why Israel Needs the Nation-State Law
The Knesset Has Resumed Its Business, but Both Sides Have Broken Unwritten Rules
Yesterday, eleven months of political stalemate in Israel appeared to have come to an end as the sitting prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his main rival, Benny Gantz, agreed to form a unity government together with some of the smaller parties. This development has fractured Gantz’s Blue and White party into its constituent factions. Meanwhile, the resignation of Yuli Edelstein as interim Knesset speaker—a position meant to be occupied for just a few hours, but which he has held for nearly a year—has allowed the Knesset to resume business as usual.