Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Israel's Knesset Passes Bill Urging Judges To Use Jewish Law In Absence of Other Precedent

Haaretz [subscription required] reports that Israel's Knesset yesterday, by a vote of 39-32, gave final approval to a controversial bill that recommends, but does not require, judges to decide cases according to principles of Jewish law when there is no other relevant legislation or judicial precedent.  It also continues the provision that is in current law urging judges to also look at "the principles of Jewish heritage."  Bill sponsor MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) explained:
The goal is that if there’s a lacuna in the law, instead of the judge running to look all over the world for compatible legal systems, he should look at Jewish law.  If the judge wants to, he’ll use it, and if not, he’ll use his judgment and do as he sees fit. This isn’t a big revolution and there’s nothing here that ought to scare people.
However, opposition Knesset member Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) argued:
This is one small step ... on the way to an undemocratic state governed by Jewish law.... In a democratic country, the law is whatever is decided by the people’s representatives, not what a mere minority believes that God has decided.
And Knesset member Dov Khenin (Joint List , a coalition of Arab parties) said:
This bill is part of a creeping, dangerous move. This government has proposed a series of bills whose goal is to change the foundations of the system, to distance the system as much as possible from progressive views of democracy and make it more nationalist, conservative and religious.