Argonauts of the Eastern Mediterranean: Legal Transplants and Signaling

Assaf Likhovski


This Article tells the story of two legal cooperation projects established by the Israeli Ministry of Justice in the 1950s and 1960s. The Article argues that the history of these projects can suggest a new way of understanding the process of legal transplantation. Much of the literature on legal transplants focuses on the legal norms transplanted. This Article seeks to shift the focus of the debate from a discussion of the legal norms transplanted to a discussion of the social acts involved in the process of transplantation. The Article argues that while transplantation may be motivated by practical considerations, such as the desire to obtain foreign norms which are deemed superior to local law, it is sometimes also a process of signaling. The two legal cooperation projects discussed in the Article, it is argued, were, to a certain extent, signaling devices used to communicate to Israel’s potential allies the fact that Israel was part of the civilized world, and thus a partner worthy of its cooperation, and also the fact that Israel was a state stable and strong enough to survive in the hostile environment into which it was born.

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