Kudos to Tzipi Livni

While Tzipi Livni ran a campaign in the last election based on the platform of working towards a peace agreement, and has in fact been in charge of those negotiations, it is not at all clear anything will be achieved in this area.

Ironically, Livni may go down in history for the impressive reforms she is working to bring about in the Justice Ministry. One of the most significant suggested reforms Livni has raised so far is a proposal she made today to eliminate Israel’s debtors’ prison. I bet you did not even know Israel had a debtor prison– However, believe it or not it does. The official government agency “ho’tza’a L’po’al, (which is the government’s collection agency) is empowered to place people in jail for not paying a debt. Debtors’ prison was eliminated in the United States 200 years ago, but still exists in Israel to this day. No other Justice Minister thought it important to eliminate this anachronistic and immoral process. Today, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has.

Livni is also trying to bring about a reform of the Court system. She is trying to change the current procedures, where trials go on for months – and sometimes, even years – with a judge presiding over 20 or 30 trials at the same time. In addition, the judge serves the roles of both the traditional American judge and the American jury. Livni’s suggested new system would have a trial begin and continue until it is completed. Once again, this seems like it should be obvious, and yet …

While Justice Minister Livni is on a roll, here are two additional “small” additional suggestions requiring immediate legal reform. First, how about creating a uniform code of law in this country? Our legal system is a stew made up of Ottoman, British and Israeli law. Our banking system is based on British law. Our emergency legislation is British and some of our patent law is Ottoman. After more than six decades, shouldn’t a Jewish State have it very own unified system of law?

Second, and probably most importantly– How about introducing the concept of Habeus Corpus? In Israel, the police are entitled by law to hold a suspect they are investigating in jail until the investigation against that person is completed. This practice is utterly unheard of in the United States. Last year, after a demonstration in Tel Aviv, when some demonstrators were arrested, the police actually asked that the demonstrators be held until the completion of the proceedings. Luckily the judge realized the absurdity of this request and released the demonstrators on bail. Sadly, there are many examples of just the opposite taking place.

Justice Minister Livni, I hope with all my heart that you can go down in history as someone who advances the peace process. Making progress toward peace is not completely within your power.

However, you could go down as the person who brought significant and meaningful reform to the Israeli legal system. That power remains in your hands.

About the Author
Marc Schulman is the editor of Historycentral.com -- the largest history web site. He is the author a series of Multimedia History Apps as well as a recent biography of JFK. He holds a BA and MA from Columbia University, and currently lives in Tel Aviv. He is also a regular contributor to Newsweek authoring the Tel Aviv Diary. He is the publisher of an economic news App about Israel called DigitOne
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