Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Issues of religion and state arouse passions. MK Miki Eitan, the head of the Knesset Judiciary Committee is convening biweekly committee meetings for the purpose of creating a consensual constitution. Things have been moving along merrily primarily because the difficult issues are being saved for later. Supporters of the process, including the apparatchiks from the Israel Democracy Institute, are very eager to get Haredim and Arabs signed on in order to be yotzeh the "consensual" criterion. So, in particular, they need the support of MK Ravitz, who is one of 15 member of the committee and the senior Haredi representative. Ravitz has realized that they are trying to delay the issue of religion and state until the whole document has passed the point of no return. Yesterday he announced that he is no longer participating in the meetings regarding the constitution until religion and state is put on the agenda and resolved to his satisfaction. I suggested to him an amendment to the currently proposed Basic Law: Israel as the State of the Jewish People (which I drafted) which might do the trick. The current proposal includes the following:

6. Shabbat and Jewish holidays are the official days of rest.

The amendment would add the line:

The public character of these days shall be determined by law. Any law passed by force of this clause shall neither be interpreted nor struck down in light of other basic laws.

The point is to allay Ravitz's completely justified fear that the secular zealots masquerading as judges on the Supreme Court will one day strike down all blue laws as violations of Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. In the end this is probably the only proposal with any chance of gaining the agreement of both sides but I fear we will need to go through a bloody battle before we get there -- if we get anywhere at all with this (and I'm not sure we ought to).

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