This Country Is Unconstitutional (Perhaps for the Best)

Gershom Gorenberg

Prof. Yedidia Stern came to my shul yesterday to give a lecture in honor of Independence Day on creating a constitution for Israel. Stern teaches law at Bar-Ilan University and is a fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a think-tank that has been assiduously pushing the idea that Israel needs a written constitution. Stern is brilliant,articulate and – at a congregation made up largely of American immigrants – should have been preaching to the choir. As often happens to me, I found myself listening to the sermon agnostically.

Years ago, another brilliant law prof, David Kretzmer, punched a large hole in my American 5th-grade-civics-lesson faith in written constitution. A constitution is worth no more than the judges interpreting it, he said. The Soviet constitution looked gorgeous, but was irrelevant to how the Soviet Union was governed. Bolivia has had more constitutions than anyone seems able to count.

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