Israel's ‘constitutional revolution’: The liberal–communitarian debate and legitimate stability

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In the early 1990s Israel underwent a so-called constitutional revolution. According to the champions of this revolution, Israel has essentially become, as a result of this momentous event, a constitutional democracy, upholding individual freedom and liberties and allowing for judicial review of parliamentary legislation. Despite the congratulatory rhetoric, it is generally agreed upon that the constitution is still in need of some essential supplements before Israel can qualify as a fully constitutional democracy. The main question addressed in this paper is the following: is it ‘reasonable’ that Israel take the further necessary steps that qualify it as a fully constitutional democracy? The doubts raised in this regard stem from the very concerns that lead political philosophers (mainly Rawls) to stress the unique value of liberal democracy. As they argue, liberal democracy provides deeply divided societies with the best means to secure their legitimacy and political stability. Israel's political realities, I argue, defy this claim. Moreover, Israel's political realities may also carry a valuable lesson to other states, even to seemingly robust liberal democracies. It is not the purpose of the paper, of course, to argue that Israel's existing rule of government should be embraced by other states – far from that. Israel should undergo some radical changes so that it can protect the rights and interests of all its citizens. Yet, to achieve this purpose, it should transcend, I will argue, liberal democracy. As matters stand, simply strengthening its liberal character, Israel's political system may be exposed to a growing challenge to its legitimacy and stability. It should, therefore, reject liberal democracy and especially the principle of neutrality that is intimately connected with a liberal rule of government and embrace, instead, the ideal of multicultural democracy. This ideal, I argue, is better equipped to answer the need of deeply divided societies to secure their legitimacy and stability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-74
Number of pages34
JournalPhilosophy and Social Criticism
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2001


  • Israel
  • Jewish–Palestinian relations
  • constititional democracy
  • liberal democracy
  • multicultural democracy
  • neutrality
  • religious–secular relations
  • tolerance and toleration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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