Menachem Mautner

in Law and the Culture of Israel

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199600564
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729188 | DOI:

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Over a short span of time in the course of the 1980s, Israel's Supreme Court introduced a series of far-reaching changes into its jurisprudence: it adopted highly activist doctrines enabling it to sweepingly intervene in decisions undertaken by other branches of the state; it substituted its formalistic style of reasoning with a value-laden approach; and it adopted a perception of itself as a political institution. These changes should be understood in the context of the great historical processes that began to take place in Israel in the second half of the 1970s: The decline of the political, social, and cultural hegemony of the Labor movement; the rise of Jewish religious fundamentalism; and the renewal of the struggle between secular and religious Jews over the country's future cultural orientation. The Court, the state institution most closely identified with liberal values, collaborated with the secular group in its struggle. The Court has paid a heavy price for its identification with one of the two major groups contending in the struggle over the shaping of Israeli culture. The Court's new jurisprudence resulted in excessive legalization of decision-making processes. It also bred all the malaises associated with the prevalence of rights talk. In addition to the schism within the Jewish group, there is an additional, profound schism between the Jewish group and the Arab group, which constitutes around 20% of the country's population. Israel officially defines itself as a ‘Jewish and democratic state’, but demographically it is a bi-national state. The discrepancy between the definition and the demography will continue to give rise to many of the problems Israel faces in the coming years.

Keywords: Israeli law; Israeli history; Arab citizens; judicial activism; religious fundamentalism; neo-liberalism; legalization; rights talk

Chapter.  4767 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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