A “Constitutional” Democracy
(Photo by Avi Ohayon, Israeli Government Press Office, 2003)

Israel, like Britain, is a parliamentary democracy, but, like Britain, Israel lacks a formal constitution. The following items show how the system works and include Israel’s proposed 1948 constitution and the Basic Laws that fill the constitutional void. For extensive study of the Israeli political system, including guiding questions and resources organized by age group, visit this page.

DOCUMENT — Proposed Constitution: Under the U.N. partition resolution and its own Declaration of Independence, Israel was supposed to adopt a constitution, and it published this proposed draft in The New York Times in December 1948. But it never approved this or any other version.

DOCUMENTS — Basic Laws: Instead of ratifying a constitution, Israel’s Knesset decided to adopt a series of fundamental laws, called Basic Laws, that collectively would fill the same role.

ANALYSIS — Origins of Democracy: The political culture of Israel developed from the practices of the Yishuv, the area of Jewish settlement in pre-state Palestine, and from approaches of self-rule Jews adopted through centuries of life in exile.

VIDEO — Democratic Roots and Constitutional Principles: Professor Doron Shultziner explains the origins of Israeli democracy and the use of the Basic Laws.

VIDEO — The Supreme Court and Social Change: Former Supreme Court clerk Gal Ben Haim Levy shows how the court has taken steps over the years to expand protections for individual rights.

VIDEO — How Israel Votes: A whiteboard video shows what happens when Israelis elect their parliament, the Knesset.

VIDEO — Forming a Government: A whiteboard video shows the process between the election and the creation of a government, including the selection of a prime minister.

VIDEO — The Presidency: Israel does have a president, and this whiteboard video shows how the position is filled and what the officeholder does.