Table of Contents in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia

Israel in Asia

According to the work “Guide to Foreign and International Citations”, by the Journal of International Law and Politics (New York University School of Law):

“The State of Israel was founded on May 14, 1948 as a democratic Jewish state. Israel’s
legal system is based on the common law tradition. The Israeli structure of government is a
parliamentary democracy consisting of a legislative, executive and judicial branch. Its
institutions are the Presidency (head of State), the Government (Cabinet of Ministers), the
Parliament (Knesset), and the Judiciary.

Israel’s fundamental law is comprised of the Basic Laws. Currently, there are twelve
Basic Laws, outlining the fundamental features of the Israeli government; three additional Basic
Laws are under consideration. Thus, Israel currently has no formal, single-document
constitution. Individual civil rights have been recognized, however, by the Israeli Supreme
Court based on two Basic Laws (Human Dignity and Freedom of Occupation) as well as other
general rights which have been recognized in Israeli jurisprudence.

Legislative power is vested in Parliament (Knesset), which consists of a single, 120
member chamber. Members of Parliament are directly elected by the people to four-year terms.
Each party running for election presents a list of candidates, and the number of candidates
elected from that party is proportional to the percentage of support the list receives. Legislation
may be presented by an individual Parliament member, a group of Parliament members, the
Government as a whole, or a single Minister from within the Government.

After independence, Parliament enacted the Law and Administration Ordinance,
stipulating that laws prevailing in the country prior to statehood would remain in force so long as
they did not contradict the principles embodied in the Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
or conflict with laws enacted by Parliament. Thus, the legal system includes remnants of
Ottoman law, British Mandate laws, elements of Jewish religious law, and some aspects of other
systems. The prevailing characteristic of the legal system, however, is the large corpus of
independent statutory and case law that has evolved since 1948.

Executive power is vested in the Government. The President is elected by Parliament to
a seven-year term. The President is the head of state, but this is primarily a ceremonial role. The
Prime Minister functions as the head of Government and exercises executive power. The
President selects the party leader most able to form a Government, usually the head of the largest
party in the Parliament, to serve as Prime Minister. Other Ministers are appointed by the Prime
Minister with Parliament’s approval. These Ministers are typically responsible for one or more
government ministries, but can also serve as a Minister without Portfolio.

Judicial power is vested in the Judiciary, which is divided into two main categories. First,
there are general courts of law, also called civil courts, which have general jurisdiction. The
civil court system is comprised of three levels: the Supreme Court, the District Courts, and the
Magistrates’ Courts. Second, there are tribunals or other authorities of limited jurisdiction.
These tribunals include the military courts, the labor courts, the administrative courts, and the
religious courts. The religious courts adjudicate certain matters of family law, with exclusive
jurisdiction over some matters (such as marriages and divorces) and with concurrent jurisdiction
with the civil courts over other matters. The religious courts apply the rules of their respective
religious communities. The jury system is not used. The Supreme Court has supervisory power over all other courts. It is both a court of appeal and a high court of justice, sitting as a court of first instance in constitutional and administrative cases.”

Israel Online Legal Resources


Law and Legislation

  • Selected Laws (Ministry of Foreign Affairs): In English.
  • Selected Agreements (Ministry of Foreign Affairs): Full-text of selected bilateral agreements as well as human rights conventions to which Israel is a signatory.

Laws by Subject

  • Environment (Ministry of Foreign Affairs): In English.
  • Insurance Law  (Levitan, Sharon & Co. ) Includes articles in English on Israeli Insurance law, summaries of important rulings, and English translations of updated Israeli laws.
  • Internet (Internet Technology Policy Office ): In Hebrew.


  • Judgments of the Supreme Court (Judicial Authority): Database of judgments in Hebrew back to 1996 that can be searched by judge, party or subject.  Very limited number of judgments available in English.
  • Judgments of the Labour Court (Judicial Authority): Database of judgments in Hebrew back to 1996 that can be searched by judge and party.



Subscription Databases

  • Takdinet (CDI Systems).
  • Dinim (Halachot): Updates CD-ROM, information in Hebrew.

More Information

For Jewish law information and resources, Click here

Israeli Government Websites:
Israeli Law Websites:

Note: We linked the resources to in an effort to decrease the number of broken links cited.

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