Navot, Suzie. The Constitution of Israel: A Contextual Analysis. Oxford: Hart, 2014.
This book presents the main features of the Israeli constitutional system and a topical discussion of Israel’s basic laws. It focuses on constitutional history and the peculiar decision to frame a constitution ‘by stages’. Following its British heritage and the lack of a formal constitution, Israel’s democracy grew for more than four decades on the principle of parliamentary supremacy. Introducing a constitutional model and the concept of judicial review of laws, the ‘constitutional revolution’ of the 1990s started a new era in Israel’s constitutional history. The book’s main themes include: constitutional principles; the legislature and the electoral system; the executive; the protection of fundamental rights and the crucial role of the Supreme Court in Israel’s constitutional discourse. It further presents Israel’s unique aspects as a Jewish and democratic state, and its ongoing search for the right balance between human rights and national security. Finally, the book offers a critical discussion of the development of Israel’s constitution and local projects aimed at enacting a single and comprehensive text.
In conclusion, the articulation of the democratic dilemma in the Israeli judicial and political arena has been revealed to be much more than a theoretical or institutional discussion. During the course of the various debates, which ultimately recognized the need to disqualify political parties, defensive democracy has imposed itself as a new regime of truth delimiting what is legitimate and what is not in the matter of party representation in a democracy. This dominant discourse has not only led to the institutionalization of limits on political participation by legitimizing the passing of the amendments studied above, but has significantly transformed the accepted meaning of democracy, its identity and boundaries. The construction of a narrative according to which democracy would have to defend itself against enemies has conferred a meaning to democracy that largely differs from the original model of democracy, as defined by the Israeli discourse itself. By “defending itself,” the Israeli democracy has been transformed into a regime in which democratic rights have become a conditional attribute of the nation-state, ready to be sacrificed in the name of the latter’s survival and where allegedly suspicious citizens can be excluded from the polity. Under those circumstances, the room for substantial — rather than formal — pluralism has itself become considerably limited.