Basic Law

   As early as 1947, the executive of the Vaad Leumi appointed a committee headed by Zerah Warhaftig to study the question of a constitution for the new state. In December 1947, the Jewish Agency executive entrusted Dr. Leo Kohn, professor of international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with the task of preparing a draft constitution. On 8 July 1949, the provisional Council of State appointed a Constitutional Committee. The first Knesset devoted much time to a profound discussion of the issue of a constitution for the state of Israel. The major debate was between those who favored a written document and those who believed that the time was not appropriate for imposing rigid constitutional limitations. The latter group argued that a written constitution could not be framed because of constantly changing social conditions, primarily the result of mass immigration (see ALIYA) and a lack of experience with independent governmental institutions. There was also concern about the relationship between state and religion and the method of incorporating the precepts and ideals of Judaism into the proposed document.
   The discussion of these issues continued for more than a year, and on 13 June 1950, the Knesset adopted a compromise that postponed the real issue indefinitely. It was decided in principle that a written constitution would be adopted ultimately but that for the time being there would be no formal and comprehensive document. Instead, a number of fundamental, or basic, laws would be passed dealing with specific subjects that might in time form chapters in a consolidated constitution. A number of basic laws dealing with various subjects have been adopted: The Knesset (1958); Israel Lands (1960); The President of the State (1964); The Government (1968); The State Economy (1975); The Army (1976); Jerusalem, Capital of Israel (1980); The Judiciary (1984); The State Comptroller (1988); Human Dignity and Liberty (1992); and Freedom of Occupation (1992). The basic laws thereby provide a definitive perspective of the formal requirements of the system in specific areas of activity, a "written" framework, in a sense, for governmental activity.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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