ISRAEL, Elections and Parliament

Legislative

The Parliament of Israel is unicameral.

  • Name of Parliament : Knesset
  • Number of seats : 120
  • Term of legislature : 4
  • Required age for voting : 18
  • Required age for membership : 21

The 120 members of the Knesset are directly elected in 1 multi-member constituency. The election is based on closed party lists of candidates with proportional distribution of seats affected according to the simple quotient and highest average system among all lists having obtained at least 1.5% of the valid votes cast. Within each list, list are allotted to candidates according to their order of appearance. Voting is not compulsory.

Since its inception, Israeli political system has been characterised for the large number of parties present in the Assembly. In part, this is due to the low electoral threshold a party has to achieve in order to get into the Parliament, 1.5% (before the 1990s it had been 1%).

Although law stipulates that elections must be held every four years , the Knesset is entitled to call for early elections. Due to the instability of the political system this has been often the case (the elections of 2003, were the fourth in less than seven years).

In 1996, the electoral system was changed to introduce direct elections for the Prime Minister. Benjamin Netanyahou was the first candidate elected under the new system in 1996. The old single-ballot system was restored for the elections of January 2003.

Chief of state Israeli President is elected by the simple majority of the Knesset Members for a unique mandate of seven years. The current president, Shimon Peres (Kadima) was elected on the 13th oj June 2000. His role is essentially ceremonial. He choses for the member of the Knesset who will form the government and upon recommendation of the competent institutions, he appoints the judges, the governor of the Central Bank and the Ambassadors.

Executive

The government is formed for a period of four years by the Knesset Member appointed by the President (normallly the chairman of the most voted party). The majority of the Knesset is constituted by 61 of the members. The Government needs the support of the Assembly. Until present time, all goverments have been coalitions of several parties (no single party has never won seats enough to form government by its own). The Cabinet is very powerful since it is authorised to tackle all those domains not attributed to any other authority.

The Constitution

Israel has no Constitution as such. There are 11 Fondamental laws to which all other laws have to conform. They are voted by the Knesset and normally need special majorities if to be amended.