Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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26 Shevat 5760 - February 2, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Barak: Constitution Should Be Enacted Only by Consensus

by Eliezer Rauchberger

Prime Minster Ehud Barak has expressed reservations about recent demands to enact a constitution without a national consensus on the issues. He said that to the best of his knowledge, in a true democracy a constitution is not imposed. A constitution, therefore, should be enacted only by consensus.

Last week, the Knesset discussed the issue of enacting a constitution. President of Israel, Ezer Weizman; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, and additional guests took part in the meeting.

Prime Minister Barak stated, "The constitution isn't only supposed to coordinate society, but must also reflect and stabilize it. Therefore, in a society such as ours with many groups and contrasts -- in which Jews and Arabs, secular and chareidim, those of European, Asiatic and African descent and their children and grandchildren live side by side -- a constitution which all sectors of the nation are obligated to see as their own must be the result of an ongoing process resting upon a platform of broad consensus and tolerance. Its roots should serve as a basis for internal unity and as a stabilizing factor."

In contrast, Avrohom Burg said that a constitution should be enacted as quickly as possible, since it is the life force of democracy. He expressed his hope that unlike its predecessors, the current Knesset would formulate a constitution. "If we want life, we must quickly establish new basic principles instead of the `status quo,' which has breathed its very last artificial breath. A constitution is a new key principle, and I believe that if each person examines himself in depth, he will discover that the [existing] distances are not unbridgeable."

David Tal of Shas sharply criticized rulings of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak, as well as his judicial activism. He attacked Barak's famous constitutional revolution and said: "Since then the dispute has sharpened, and the animosity and hatred in Israeli public affairs between the religious and the secular, the Right and the Left, Ashkenazim and the Sephardim have degenerated. Since then we have been in the thick of an uncompromising battle over the nation's character and over the question of whether it will remain a state with a Jewish character or become a democratic state without any spark of Jewish uniqueness."

At the close of his remarks, he declared: "Barak's motto, `the rule of law,' has become a two-edged sword from a small, well-publicized clique which is trying to dictate radical political changes in Israeli society while bypassing the elected governmental bodies and shutting mouths in a crass manner."

Meretz members shouted back at Tal in response, while some demonstratively left the plenum.

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