- President of Israel
The President of the State of Israel ( _he. נשיא המדינה, "Nesi HaMedina", lit. "President of the State") is the
head of stateof 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 Pereswho took office on 15 July, 2007. Presidents are elected by the Knessetfor a seven year term, and are limited to serving one term.
Presidentis elected by an absolute majorityin the Knesset(the Israeli parliament). If, by the third round of voting, no candidate receives an absolute majority, a simple majorityis 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 presidentin 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 Israeland 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
Zionistactivities 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 Sciencein 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 Navonwhilst 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.
All Israeli presidents from
Yitzhak Ben-Zvito Ezer Weizmanwere members of, or associated with, the Labor Party and its predecessors, and have been considered politically moderate. Moshe Katsavwas the first Likudpresident. 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 Sephardiorigin, 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 Peresin 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." [ [http://www.princetonhistory.org/museum_alberteinstein.cfm 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". [ [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1159193468801&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull 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 Processby 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-Gurionpreceded 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 Sprinzaktook over as acting president until the appointment of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi.
# Upon Ben-Zvi's death on
23 April 1963, Knesset speaker Kadish Luztook over as acting president until the appointment of Zalman Shazar.
# After Weizman resigned from the Presidency, Knesset speaker
Avraham Burgtook 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 Itziktook over as acting President. She continued in this role after Katsav's resignation came into effect on 1 July 2007until Shimon Peres' inauguration on 15 July.
Living former presidents
As of February 2008, three former Presidents were alive, the oldest being
Ephraim Katzirwho was born in 1916. The most recent to die was Ezer Weizmanwho died in April, 2005.
* [http://www.president.gov.il/defaults/default_en.asp Official website] en icon
* [http://www.knesset.gov.il/laws/special/eng/basic12_eng.htm Basic Law: The President of the State]
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