A Start-Up Constitution for the Start-Up Nation
Like so many of us, I have been closely watching the judicial reform tensions grow over the past weeks. Most people see that the root of the issue is that Israel has no constitution. When the new Knesset proposed the judicial reforms, and then people poured out onto the streets in opposition to those reforms, the lack of a constitution became harder to ignore. As the chorus of voices grows louder about the effects of the judicial overhaul – bad or good – and the looming “constitutional” crisis that, according to some, is bringing Israel to the brink of civil war, more and more people are asking if this could be Israel’s constitutional moment. But if divisive Knesset politics won’t allow discussion and compromise on judicial reform, how can it ever have constructive dialog to create a true living constitution? The Basic Laws, which are supposed to somehow become a constitution someday, and the process of creating them, have also become mired in the proposed reforms and run the risk of losing legitimacy through this looming crisis.
Maybe the answer to all this is for the people to directly crowd-source a constitution:
The Start-Up Nation can do a Start-Up Constitution.
Instead of waiting for Knesset members to work together to create one, people can create and share different versions of what a constitution would look like to them, and then take the best parts of different ideas to combine into one final proposal. It could be an iterative process run by the people. Then, when a stable version emerges, a vote can be held on whether it should be enacted as Israel’s Constitution.
When I started thinking about the constitutional issue, I began writing, and after some long sleepless nights I had written an entire constitution. I tried to focus on checks and balances of power instead of taking on difficult political issues. The tough issues need to be properly debated and resolved in Law only after a constitution has been adopted. I tried to walk a middle path – not left wing or right wing, not religious but with strong religious freedom, tapping deep Jewish history while interpreting history into a completely modern framework. In some ways it is familiar to the current system, and in other ways it’s a big departure from it. But mostly it’s a starting point. The American Constitution didn’t have a Bill of Rights when it was adopted. That came a few years later after lots of debate. The adopted American Constitution mostly set the rules by which the government should operate and then set it all in motion, leaving future governments and future generations to keep working on it to make it better.
Some people have proposed that a group of international lawyers should write Israel’s constitution, but I think that’s a mistake: it should not be created by lawyers. It should ultimately be created by writers and poets who can talk directly to people’s hearts and in language everyone can understand. The People create the constitution, the constitution creates the government, the government creates the laws, and judges & lawyers then interpret the laws.
I am not a poet and I’m not a constitutional scholar. I can’t yet write it in Hebrew, so I wrote it in English, but here is my offer as a starting point to create a Constitution for Israel, in a nicely packaged pdf file.