Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant argued on Wednesday that Israel's Declaration of Independence constitutes the opening chapter of Israel’s still unwritten constitution.
"Precisely when it seemed that there was nothing left to hold on to, in hours of great pain and terrible brokenness, we as a people held on to the good of the state, the flag, the crest, and the declaration of independence – this scroll which is the opening chapter of the unwritten constitution of a country without a constitution," Gallant told Israeli military soldiers during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
The defense minister further argued that the Declaration of Independence constitutes the very essence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
“Even today, the Declaration of Independence embodies the foundations on which the State of Israel was built and exists – it is a Jewish state, a democratic state, with equal rights for all its citizens,” stated Gallant.
Gallant’s defense of Israel’s Declaration of Independence was a response to Ilan Bombach, an attorney representing the Netanyahu government, who caused controversy earlier this month when he devalued the crucial declaration as a “hasty” document.
“Because 37 people were authorized to sign the hasty Declaration of Independence, which was still being drafted until the last moment, this should obligate people who came later?” Bombach asked provocatively, which some believe was an attempt to equalize Israel’s Declaration of Independence with the Netanyahu government’s controversial judicial overhaul plan.
While the Netanyahu government coalition is clearly in favor of preserving Israel’s Declaration of Independence, Bombach conveyed the government’s position that it is not a legally binding document.
“It’s a founding document, not a legal one,” Bombach said.
However, Gallant, who has emerged as a moderating voice within the Netanyahu government, warned that politically-motivated attacks on the Declaration of Independence undermine the very basis of the State of Israel.
"Anyone who challenges the status of the Declaration of Independence damages the moral pillar of the State of Israel."
Opposition leader Yair Lapid went even further, accusing the Netanyahu government of combining an anti-democratic agenda with anti-Zionism and anti-Israel sentiments.
"There is no clearer proof that there is an anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli, anti-democratic government in Israel that will burn the pages of history and diminish the founders of the state for despicable political considerations," Lapid said.
On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, modern Israel’s first prime minister and founding father, read the Jewish nation's Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv amid threats of invasion from neighboring Arab states.
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped,” Ben-Gurion announced to the international community.
Apart from Ben-Gurion, other prominent signatories of the Declaration of Independence included two future prime ministers, Moshe Sharett and Golda Meir.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence came into existence merely 46 years after Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, uttered the prophetic words that encouraged the Jewish national rebirth: "If you will it, it is no dream."
While the declaration itself is brief in words, it dramatically and permanently transformed Jewish, Middle Eastern and global history by announcing the rebirth of the first Jewish state in 2,000 years.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.