Courts, Politics and Culture in Israel

In this clearly written and argued analysis of the various Israeli court systems, Martin Edelman probes a fundamental issue: whether those courts protect human rights while fostering the development of a common, inclusive national culture. Edelman's work is based on the assumption that courts are important agencies of government and that, like other governmental isntitutions in a democracy, courts have an inter-active relationship with a society's political culture. Isreal does not have an integrated court system. The courts of the 14 recognised religions have exclusive jurisdiction over members of their communities on matters of marriage and divorce. The civil courts have basic jurisdiction over criminal, civil and public law controversies. Palestinians in the occupied areas who are accused of acts against Israeli security are tried in the military courts. Moreover, Israel lacks the organising structure and directing force provided by a written constitution. Edelman describes the origins of Israel's courts and places them within the broader ocntext of Israel's unique history. He examines Israel's commitment to the rule of law and the various pressures upon the Israeli Supreme Court to define its legal and political culture in the absence of a written constitution and the power of American-style judicial review. He charts the pressures created by Israel's attempts to accommodate the interests of orthodox and non-orthodox Jews, Muslims and Druzes as well as the pressures generated by the nation's national security needs. Edelman demonstrates how the military and religious courts reinforce Israel's character as an ethnic democracy - a Jewish state that recognises and protects individual rights while simultaneously permitting group identity to materially affect citizen status. Courts, Politics, and Culture in Israel is an important contribution to the study of comparative constitutionalism and judicial politics.