The Israeli Supreme Court

The highest court in the land stands up to the government policy and second-guesses parliamentary regulations.

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A prime example is a 1999 unanimous decision banning Israeli security forces from using physical torture on prisoners. The controversial decision was a landmark, in that it placed the human rights of Palestinian detainees over the "security needs" of the country. The Barak court also intervened to force the government to recognize Jewish conversions performed by Conservative and Reform rabbis, scaling back the power of Orthodox Jewish religious authorities.

But the court's aggressiveness also infuriated many Israelis who believe that it has overstepped its authority. Some even proposed setting up a "constitutional court" with a different composition of judges to sidestep the Supreme Court. In a country whose constitution is still a work in progress, wide disagreement remains about what the role of the Supreme Court should be, and even what body of laws--modern secular or halakhic--should serve as its basis. It's a legal argument that continues to play itself out on a daily basis.

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Joshua Mitnick is a freelance journalist living in Israel. His articles have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, The Toronto Star, The Newark Star Ledger, and The Washington Times.