capital of Israel

Basic Laws of Israel

The Basic Laws of Israel (חוקי יסוד, Hokei Yesod) are a key component of Israel's unwritten constitution.

The State of Israel has no formal constitution. Though its declaration of independence promised the constitution would be completed no later than October 1, 1948, the gap between religious and secular proved difficult to bridge, and a full, unifying document was never produced. Then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion discouraged the convention from completing their work on the constitution, saying Israel should wait until the bulk of Jews from around the world had moved to their homeland.

Religious Jews at the time opposed the idea of their nation having a document which the government would regard as nominally "higher" in authority than religious texts such as the Tanakh, Talmud, and Shulkhan Arukh. As late as the early 1990s, Shas leader Aryeh Deri famously declared that even if the Ten Commandments were presented to him as Israel's draft constitution, he would refuse to sign his name to them.

In 1949, the first Knesset came to what was called the Harari Decision. Rather than draft a full constitution immediately, they would postpone the work, charging the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee with drafting the document piecemeal. Each chapter would be called a Basic Law, and when all had been written they would be compiled into a complete constitution.

In 1998, Aharon Barak, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel declared a "constitutional revolution" and attached constitutional ascendancy to the Basic Laws of Israel. The basic laws are various pieces of legislation from the Knesset that outline the nation's political structure.

Between 1958 and 1988 the Knesset passed nine Basic Laws, all of which pertained to the institutions of state. In 1992, it passed the first two Basic Laws which related to rights and basis of the Supreme Court's recently declared powers of judicial review. These are Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. These were passed by votes of 32-21 and 23-0, respectively.

List of the Basic Laws of Israel

Year passed Basic Law Description
1958 The Knesset States legislative functions of the house of representatives of the state.
1960 Israel Lands Ensures state lands remain national property.
1964 The President of the State Deals with status, election, qualifications, powers, and procedures of work of the President of the State.
1968 The Government (Replaced by the 1992 law)
1975 The State Economy Regulates payments made by and to the State. Authority to mint currency.
1976 The Army Upholds constitutional and legal basis for the operation of the Israel Defense Forces. Subordinates military forces to the government, deals with enlistment, and states that no extra-legal armed force outside the Israel Defense Forces may be set up or maintained.
1980 Jerusalem Law Establishes status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, secures integrity and unity of Jerusalem, deals with holy places, secures rights of members of all religions, grants special preference with regards to development.
1984 The Judiciary Deals with authority, institutions, principle of independence, openness, appointment, qualifications, and powers of judiciary.
1988 The State Comptroller Deals with the powers, tasks, and duties of supervisor of government bodies, ministries, institutions, authorities, agencies, persons, and bodies operating on behalf of the state.
1992 Human Dignity and Liberty Declares basic human rights in Israel are based on the recognition of the value of man, the sanctity of his life and the fact that he is free. Defines human freedom as right to leave and enter the country, privacy (including speech, writings, and notes), intimacy, and protection from unlawful searches of one's person or property. This law includes instruction regarding its own permanence and protection from changes by means of emergency regulations.
1992 The Government Provides for direct election of Prime Minister at time of Knesset elections. Deals with principles of service of Prime Minister, formation and function of government, qualifications for ministers. (Replaced by the 2001 law)
1992 Freedom of Occupation The law lays down the right of "every citizen or inhabitant to engage in any occupation, profession or trade" unless "a law which corresponds with the values of the State of Israel, and which was designed for a worthy end" determines otherwise. (Replaced by the 1994 law)
1994 Freedom of Occupation Guarantees every Israel national or resident's "right to engage in any occupation, profession or trade". Any violation of this right shall be "by a law befitting the values of the State of Israel, enacted for a proper purpose, and to an extent no greater than is required."
2001 The Government

See also


  • Cohen, Asher and Bernard Susser. Israel and the Politics of Jewish Identity: The Secular-Religious Impasse. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
  • Jacobsohn, Gary J. Apple of Gold: Constitutionalism in Israel and the United States. Princeton University Press, 1994.
  • Mazie, Steven V. Israel's Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State. Lexington Books, 2006.

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