Israeli law

Israeli Supreme Court, 50th anniversary celebration

Israeli law is based mostly on a common law legal system, though it also reflects the diverse history of the territory of the State of Israel throughout the last hundred years (which was at various times prior to independence under Ottoman, then British sovereignty), as well as the legal systems of its major religious communities. The Israeli legal system is based on common law, which also incorporates facets of civil law. The Israeli Declaration of Independence asserted that a formal constitution would be written,[1] though it has been continuously postponed since 1950. Instead, the Basic Laws of Israel (Hebrew: חוקי היסוד‎, ħuqey ha-yesod) function as the country's constitutional laws. Statutes enacted by the Knesset, particularly the Basic Laws, provide a framework which is enriched by political precedent and jurisprudence. Foreign and historical influences on modern-day Israeli law are varied and include the Mecelle (Hebrew: מג'לה; the civil code of the Ottoman Empire) and German civil law, religious law (Jewish Halakha and Muslim Sharia; mostly pertaining in the area of family law), and British common law. The Israeli courts have been influenced in recent years by American Law and Canadian Law[2] and to a lesser extent by Continental Law (mostly from Germany).[3]


The modern judicial system in Palestine, later the State of Israel, was established by a British senior judicial officer, Orme Bigland Clarke, who was appointed by General Edmund Allenby in 1918, following the British conquest.[4]

Britain, which was given a League of Nations mandate to govern Palestine, implemented the Common Law system, except for the jury system. Legal precedents in torts and contracts were borrowed from England, and certain legal areas were codified in order to assure legal certainty. Thus the Penal Code in Israel was practically the same as those used by the British in India or other colonies and territories.

Upon Independence, a Bill of Independence was signed as a manifesto for the new State. While it was drafted as a universal and democratic declaration capturing noble ideas prevalent at the time, it is non-binding, although has occasionally been used as a guiding tool by the courts.

With the establishment of the state, English law as it was on the date of independence remained binding, with post-1948 English law developments being persuasive and not binding. This was enabled by the first legislative act of the Provisional State Council, which enacted a reception statute as part of the "Law and Administration Ordinance" published on 19 May 1948, four days following the Declaration of Independence.[5]

Some aspects of Turkish Ottoman law still remain today, such as placing personal status and marriage law in the hands of the religious courts. Also the Turks adopted the Napoleonic Land Registration system, through a successive Block and Lot entries[clarification needed]. Many Turkish land laws remain in force.

Since independence the young State of Israel was eager to gain recognition in the international arena by joining international treaties, and participating heavily in the negotiations of international treaties, e.g., the Warsaw convention.

During the 1960s there was a rush to codify much of the Common Law in areas of contracts and torts. The new laws were a blend of Common Law, local case law, and fresh ideas. In 1977 the Knesset codified the penal code. Since the 1990s the Israeli Ministry of Justice, together with leading jurists, has been laboring on a complete recodification of all laws pertaining to civil matters. This new proposed civil codex was introduced in 2006, but its adoption through legislation is expected to take many years, if not decades.

As a result of the "Enclave law", large portions of Israeli law are applied to Israeli settlements and Israeli residents in the occupied territories.[6]