Monday, December 11, 2006

Much constitution action the last couple of days. Yesterday vaadat chukah met to decide on the paragraphs dealing with the "definition" of the State. Essentially, the question was whether to say up front that Israel is a Jewish State and the Homeland of the Jewish People (our proposal). The alternatives were to say nothing Jewish up front or to say something laconic such as "Israel is a Jewish and democratic State". (The latter is a catch phrase much beloved by liberals because it comes along with two decades of Barakian jurisprudence establishing that "Jewish and democratic" is essentially equivalent to "democratic".) Lest anyone have any doubts, it is a given that the constitution will include a clear statement that Israel is a democracy with full civil rights. The exact phrasing will be discussed at the next meeting.

Unfortunately, a good friend of mine, who is advising the committee and is lobbying for a position on the Supreme Court, took the "Jewish and democratic" position as did Ben-Sasson, who chairs the committee. Since both of them wear kippot, their position constituted a formidable obstacle. Conveniently, the committee members who showed up were, by and large, on our side. Ravitz and Gafni of Degel Hatorah were both there. Officially, they are not great Zionists but the nature of the schism these days is such that they are on the side of the angels. Labor was represented by Matan Vilnai (good) and Collette Avital (bad). Aryeh Eldad of Ichud Leumi and Ruby Rivlin of Likud were both very much on our side. Haim (Jumas) Oron of Meretz spoke, as expected, in the name of absolute justice and the struggle against the forces of darkness. We had no idea where Amira Dotan of Kadimah stood on the issue but she proved quite open to the idea of some Zionism at the top of the constitution. Unfortunately, neither of the Arab members (Azmi Bishara and Taleb Al-Sana) showed up; their venom usually has the effect of turning even the most cognocentric liberals into rabid Zionists.

Our presence there is very important. Even if we don't speak, a whisper or a note to one of the committee members at a critical moment can swing the whole discussion in a helpful direction. Be-didi havei uvda. In the end, Ben-Sasson declared that two options were left standing: "Jewish and democratic" or our full proposal (Paragraph 1). To be continued.

Today, we met for a second time with the Ichud Leumi-Mafdal faction in the Knesset. We discussed most of the key issues with them. On certain issues, they wanted a stronger religious position than we took. That is fine. We were trying to find a solution that we could live with and was close enough to the Israeli consensus that it has a chance of passing. They are looking out for their interests and those of their constituents. That's how it should be.

What was unbearable is that some of them (hint: not the Ichud Leumi people) are deeply mired in the Hapoel Hamizrachi mindset. In short, they are Israel's last true Bolsheviks. We tried valiantly to explain that putting social rights into the constitution will not create a more just society; it will simply transfer power of the purse from elected legislators to unelected judges. Nothing helped. Mr. Hapoel Hamizrachi (MHH) announced that he has no problem with how the Court conducts its business. He wants to make a deal on religion and once that's done the Court can carry on with its program of dispensing absolute justice. He no doubt still dreams of a "brit historit" with Mapai.

To his credit, Beni Elon tried to explain that the common Israeli practice of justices legislating from the bench is a fundamental problem that requires a solution, not an opportunity to make a deal. That this needed saying in this forum is quite distressing. There is a strain of Religious Zionism that is simply a malignancy. More on this another time.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Eliyahu said...

What is the full name of Ben Sasson. I'm just curious if he is the son of Abba Hillel Ben Sasson the historian.

2:42 AM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

The interview with Benzi Lieberman in last week's Makor Rishon is a PERFECT example of the party hack mentality that has taken hold of huge swaths of Religious Zionism (in varying degrees).

BTW, the American wing of the Mizrachi movement is still very much infected by this "brit historit" mentality. So is the Hesder Yeshiva across the road from you.

In any event, I still do not believe that anyone really, really wants a full constitution. The piece-meal aproach has suited Barak & Co. fine and they will stick with it. You would have all had a much more productive - and enjoyable - meeting discussing Naomi Levitsky's new book on the Supreme Court. Maybe some of your friends in the room who approved Cheshin for his seat might have had something else to add on the whole "love child" story. (which BTW is the biggest proof that it's all an "ole boys club" and won't change anytime soon - can you imagine Earl Warren's son getting appointed to the supreme court if it were revealed he had a love child!?!)

5:57 PM  

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