Barak Promises 'Secular Revolution' in Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced Sunday a "secular revolution" for the country, including a constitution, national service for all and educational reform.
Speaking on public radio, he said, "It is time to raise this banner, because we want a democratic society respecting our traditions."
He added: "A constitution must be adopted within a year, because that is the basis of all modern states."
Barak said three ministers had been given the task of drawing up the framework of a constitution, which Israel has never had.
Opposition Likud leader Ariel Sharon and extreme Orthodox Shas party head Elie Yishai promptly accused Barak, who has lost his majority in parliament amid dissent over his peace policy towards the Palestinians, of electioneering.
Barak said, "I am asking all political parties, particularly Likud, to set aside their partisan interests and support change, including civil marriages, equality for all, and educational reform which will give the same resources to all children."
Religious groups consider that traditional Jewish law and scriptures should be the constitutional basis for the state. The Orthodox, notably Shas, also have their own schools, and many are exempt from military service, as are Israeli Arabs.
Only religious marriages are celebrated in the country.
Centre Party deputy Dan Meridor, a former Likud justice minister who was behind an earlier abortive draft constitution, said there should be guaranteed freedom of expression and equality between men and women, Jews and non-Jews, which some religious parties oppose.
"These parties, in my opinion, represent a perverted expression of Judaism," Meridor added - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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