President of Israel

President of Israel

The President of the State of Israel ( _he. נשיא המדינה, "Nesi HaMedina", lit. "President of the State") is the head of state of Israel. The position is largely a ceremonial figurehead role, with executive real power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister. The current president is Shimon Peres who took office on 15 July, 2007. Presidents are elected by the Knesset for a seven year term, and are limited to serving one term.


The President is elected by an absolute majority in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). If, by the third round of voting, no candidate receives an absolute majority, a simple majority is all that is required. A president's full term is seven years and a president cannot be re-elected to a second term. Until recently, the president was elected for a five-year term, and was allowed to serve up to two terms in office. In 2000, the president's term was increased to seven years.

Any Israeli citizen who is a resident of the State is eligible to be a presidential candidate. The office falls vacant upon completion of a term, resignation, or the decision of three-quarters of the Knesset to remove the president on grounds of misconduct or incapacity. Presidential tenure is not keyed to that of the Knesset in order to assure continuity in government and the nonpartisan character of the office. There is no vice president in the Israeli governmental system. As such, when the president is temporarily incapacitated or the office falls vacant, the speaker of the Knesset becomes acting president.

Presidential powers and roles

The powers of the President of Israel are rather limited in scope compared to heads of state in other countries. The president:

*Signs every law (except those that pertain to the president's powers).
*Chooses a member of the Knesset to form the government in consultation with the parties making up the body.
*Confirms diplomats and receives foreign diplomats.
*Signs treaties, approved by the Knesset, with foreign countries.
*Appoints judges to the Supreme Court (upon advice of the Judicial Appointments Committee).
*Appoints the governor of the Bank of Israel and other bureaucrats (upon advice of the Prime Minister).
*Furthermore, the president has the authority to pardon criminals and commute sentences.

Presidential powers are usually exercised based on the recommendation of appropriate government ministers.

al functions. Furthermore, Presidents play a part in the formation of the cabinet, or government being required to consult leaders of all political parties in the Knesset and designate a member of the legislature to organize a cabinet. If the member so appointed fails, other political parties commanding a plurality in the Knesset may submit their own nominee. The figure called upon to form a cabinet is invariably the leader of the most influential political party or bloc in the Knesset.


Most Israel's Presidents were involved in national politics or Zionist activities before their elevation to the position. Some were also distinguished in other fields, including Chaim Weizmann, a leading research chemist who founded the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, Zalman Shazar, who was an author, poet, and journalist, and Chaim Herzog, who had been a military leader, attorney, and diplomat.

The first several Presidents of Israel were all born in Russia, reflecting the leadership of the State in its early days. The first President who was born in the land that was to become Israel, as well as the first with a Sephardic background, was Yitzhak Navon whilst the first President with a Western European background was Chaim Herzog, who originally came from Northern Ireland. Meanwhile,the first President born in a Middle Eastern country outside of Israel was Moshe Katsav, who was born in Iran.

Political history

All Israeli presidents from Yitzhak Ben-Zvi to Ezer Weizman were members of, or associated with, the Labor Party and its predecessors, and have been considered politically moderate. Moshe Katsav was the first Likud president. These tendencies were especially significant in the April 1978 election of Labor's Yitzhak Navon, following the inability of the governing Likud coalition to elect its candidate to the presidency. Israeli observers believed that, in counterbalance to Prime Minister Menahem Begin's polarizing leadership, Navon, the country's first president of Sephardi origin, provided Israel with unifying symbolic leadership at a time of great political controversy and upheaval. In 1983 Navon decided to re-enter Labour politics after five years of nonpartisan service as president, and Chaim Herzog (previously head of military intelligence and Ambassador of Israel to the United Nations) succeeded him as Israel's sixth president. Likud's Moshe Katsav's victory over Labor's Shimon Peres in 2000 (by secret ballot) was an upset.

Albert Einstein, a Jew but not an Israeli citizen, was offered the presidency in 1952 but turned it down, stating "I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it." [ [ Einstein in Princeton Scientist, Humanitarian, Cultural Icon] Historical Society of Princetown] Ehud Olmert was reported to be considering offering the presidency to another non-Israeli Elie Wiesel, but he was said to be "very not interested". [ [ Olmert backs Peres as next president] Jerusalem Post, 18 October 2006]

pecific efforts and initiatives

Peres has taken the lead on the Valley of Peace initiative, an effort to foster peace by promoting genuine cooperation with Palestinians in economic and industrial projects. This is in contrast to diplomatic negotiations, which focus solely on the shape of final territorial deals and political arrangements, and have continually broken down over key political issues.

There are various instances where Presidents have transcended the ceremonial nature of their post, in order to achieve more concrete policy aims. For example, Ezer Weizman sought to express dissent with the Oslo Peace Process by refusing to authroize political pardons for certain prisoners whom he felt might still be prone to commit hostile acts.

List of presidents of the State of Israel

#David Ben-Gurion preceded Weizmann as Chairman of Provisional State Council, a position which he held from 14-17 May 1948. Weizmann's position remained as Chairman of Provisional State Council until 17 February 1949, when he was declared President by the first Knesset. Upon Weizmann's death on 9 November 1952, Knesset speaker Yosef Sprinzak took over as acting president until the appointment of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.
# Upon Ben-Zvi's death on 23 April 1963, Knesset speaker Kadish Luz took over as acting president until the appointment of Zalman Shazar.
# After Weizman resigned from the Presidency, Knesset speaker Avraham Burg took over as acting president until the appointment of Moshe Katsav.
# After Katsav began a leave of absence due to police investigations on 25 January 2007, Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik took over as acting President. She continued in this role after Katsav's resignation came into effect on 1 July 2007 until Shimon Peres' inauguration on 15 July.

Living former presidents

As of February 2008, three former Presidents were alive, the oldest being Ephraim Katzir who was born in 1916. The most recent to die was Ezer Weizman who died in April, 2005.

Past elections

ee also



External links

* [ Official website] en icon
* [ Basic Law: The President of the State]

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