Tzipi Livni
Tzipi LivniFlash 90

Israel must create a constitution – even if the minority groups it is meant to defend do not want one, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday. Israel's status as a Jewish state is second to its status as a democracy, she argued.

Livni spoke at the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

“The hope was to agree on a constitution. But I don’t think we can reach an agreement,” she told the committee.

“A constitution would be meant to protect minority rights, but bizarrely, it is the hareidi-religious and Arab minorities that oppose it,” she continued. “That’s a mistake on their part.”

“Even if we cannot reach an agreement, it is time to create a constitution. In the past I busied myself trying to reach an agreement, but the time has come for decisive action,” she declared.

Livni noted the religious-secular divide regarding legal authority in Israel. “In practice, each person decides his own constitution… There is a battle over our source of authority, is it the constitution and law, with the courts clarifying its meaning? Or is it based in halakha [Jewish law] and rabbis clarifying its meaning?”

“I’m on the side of the constitution and the courts,” she continued. “Even if I sometimes disagree with a particular verdict… I don’t accept the opinion that the State of Israel is first and foremost a Jewish state, and a democratic regime.”

If a constitution is made, she said, its first clause should be the Right of Return, which outlines the right of Jews and their children and grandchildren to receive Israeli citizenship and residency.