Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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10 Shevat 5766 - February 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Constitution Proposal to Continue in Next Knesset

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Despite a stiff protest by Degel HaTorah representatives Welfare Deputy Minister MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz and MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee decided that the next Knesset would continue talks on formulating a "Constitution for Israel" (Chukah LeYisrael) even without unanimous agreement on the issue.

The Constitution Committee has held dozens of meetings on the issue during the three years of the 16th Knesset, but the prevailing understanding was that a constitution would not be accepted without the accord of every strata of Israeli society, including the religious and chareidi sectors.

Rabbi Ravitz, Degel HaTorah's representative on the committee, even discussed the matter with PM Ariel Sharon, telling him that it would not be enough for the proposal to receive broad, general support of 70 percent, for example, but that such a cardinal issue must have the support of every segment of the population. Rabbi Ravitz says Sharon concurred.

Last week's Constitution Committee meeting issued a declaration stating the committee under the 16th Knesset authorizes the committee under the 17th Knesset to discuss and formulate a "Constitution for Israel."

When MK Rabbi Ravitz demanded that Committee Chairman Michael Eitan (Likud) draft a written decision to prevent disputes in the upcoming Knesset, Eitan presented a decision reading, "The next Knesset will legislate the constitution with broad agreement."

At this point Rabbi Ravitz and Rabbi Gafni immediately demanded that the wording be changed to read "with agreement" rather than "broad agreement."

Following pressure by MK Ophir Pines (Labor), MK Eitan denied Degel HaTorah's demand, saying that he indeed intended that "broad agreement" would be sufficient.

"The cat is out of the bag," responded MK Gafni. "Now it is clear that your intention is to institute a constitution even without the agreement of chareidi and religious representatives, even if it is the type [of constitution] we deem harmful."

Rabbi Gafni recalled how 13 years ago, when the Knesset legislated the Basic Laws, it was explicitly stated there was no intention to harm religious issues. But it was discovered later that the laws impinged sharply on religious issues, and, for example, a law against the import of pork had to be legislated to stop the breach the High Court created on the issue. Then it was made clear the Basic Laws would be legislated only with full agreement, said Rabbi Gafni, yet now, "You want to do so without full agreement? This is unconscionable."

Following a vote called by Degel HaTorah, MKs Rabbi Ravitz, Nissim Zeev (Shas), Yitzchak Levy (Religious Zionism) and Zahava Galon (Meretz) voted in favor of a requirement of full agreement and three committee members abstained. But the majority backed the draft calling for "broad agreement."

"You won the vote today, but you lost the constitution," Rabbi Ravitz called out to MK Eitan following the vote.


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