President of Israel

President of Israel

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The President of the State of Israel is the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. The position is largely an apolitical ceremonial figurehead
Figurehead (metaphor)
In politics, a figurehead is a person who holds de jure an important title or office yet de facto executes little actual power, most commonly limited by convention rather than law. The metaphor derives from the carved figurehead at the prow of a sailing ship...

 role, with the real executive power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

. The current president is Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

 who took office on 15 July 2007. Presidents are elected by the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 for a seven year term, and are limited to a single term.

Election


The president is elected by an absolute majority in the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

. If no candidate has received an absolute majority by the third round of voting, a simple majority
Majority
A majority is a subset of a group consisting of more than half of its members. This can be compared to a plurality, which is a subset larger than any other subset; i.e. a plurality is not necessarily a majority as the largest subset may consist of less than half the group's population...

 is sufficient. When electing the president, Knesset members vote by secret ballot
Secret ballot
The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. The key aim is to ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery. The system is one means of achieving the goal of...

. The president's full term is seven years, and they cannot be re-elected for 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.

Any Israeli citizen who is a resident of the State is eligible to run for President. 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
Vice president
A vice president is an officer in government or business who is below a president in rank. The name comes from the Latin vice meaning 'in place of'. In some countries, the vice president is called the deputy president...

 in the Israeli governmental system. If the president is temporarily incapacitated or leaves office, the speaker of the Knesset becomes acting
Acting (law)
In law, when someone is said to be acting in a position it can mean one of three things.*The position has not yet been formally created.*The person is only occupying the position temporarily, to ensure continuity.*The person does not have a mandate....

 president.

The first presidential election
Israeli presidential election, 1949
An election to choose the first President of Israel was held in the Knesset on 16 February 1949. The new president would replace the president of the Provisional State Council as head of state of Israel.-Candidates:There were two candidates:...

 took place on 16 February 1949, and the winner was Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Azriel Weizmann, , was a Zionist leader, President of the Zionist Organization, and the first President of the State of Israel. He was elected on 1 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952....

. The second
Israeli presidential election, 1951
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset on 19 November 1951 following the 1951 Knesset elections and the formation of the third government . Despite his poor health, Weizmann stood again, and there were no opposing candidates...

 took place in 1951, as at the time presidential terms were linked to the length of the Knesset term (the first Knesset
Israeli legislative election, 1949
Elections for the Constituent Assembly were held in newly independent Israel on 25 January 1949. Voter turnout was 86.9%. Two days after its first meeting on 14 February 1949, legislators voted to change the name of the body to the Knesset...

 lasted only two years). Another election
Israeli presidential election, 1952
An election to choose the second President of Israel was held in the Knesset on 8 December 1952 following the death of the Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann on 9 November...

 took place the following year after Weizmann's death.

Since then, elections have been held in 1957
Israeli presidential election, 1957
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset on 28 October 1957 following the end of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi's five year term in office. Ben-Zvi stood again, and it was suggested that Yosef-Yoel Rivlin would run against him as a representative of Herut...

, 1962
Israeli presidential election, 1962
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset in October of 1962. Yitzhak Ben-Zvi stood again and was re-elected. He was the only candidate....

, 1963
Israeli presidential election, 1963
An election to choose the third President of Israel was held in the Knesset on 21 May 1963 following the death of the county's second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi on 23 April...

 (an early election following Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi was a historian, Labor Zionist leader, the second and longest-serving President of Israel.-Biography:...

's death), 1968
Israeli presidential election, 1968
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset in 1968. Zalman Shazar, who was elected in 1963 following the death of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, ran unopposed for the position....

, 1973
Israeli presidential election, 1973
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset on April 10, 1973. Ephraim Katzir was elected to the position in a secret ballot. Katzir's first term began on the day of the election. It would be characterized by the Yom Kippur War that took place later in that year...

, 1978
Israeli presidential election, 1978
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset in 1978. Ephraim Katzir, who was elected in 1973, declined to stand for a second term due to his wife's illness at the time. Yitzhak Navon ran unopposed for the position....

, 1983
Israeli presidential election, 1983
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset on March 22, 1983. Yitzhak Navon, who was elected in 1978, turned down the opportunity to run for a second term of office....

, 1988
Israeli presidential election, 1988
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset in 1988. Haim Herzog stood for re-election as an unopposed candidate.-External links:* Knesset website...

, 1993
Israeli presidential election, 1993
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset on March 24, 1993 following the end of Chaim Herzog's second five-year term in office. Ezer Weizman, former Israeli Air Force commander and Defense Minister of Israel, ran against Dov Shilansky, a Likud politician...

, 1998
Israeli presidential election, 1998
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset in 1998. Ezer Weizman stood for re-election as an unopposed candidate.-External links:* Knesset website...

, 2000
Israeli presidential election, 2000
An election for President of Israel was held in the Knesset on July 31, 1993 following the end of Ezer Weizman's second five-year term in office. Moshe Katsav, a prominent Likud politician, ran against Shimon Peres, a previous Prime Minister of Israel. In a surprising upset, the Knesset elected...

 and 2007
Israeli presidential election, 2007
Shimon Peres, a former Prime Minister and a member of the Kadima party, was elected by the Knesset as the next President of Israel on 13 June 2007. His opponents were Reuven Rivlin, a former Knesset speaker, of the Likud Party, and Colette Avital, of the Labor party...

. Six elections (1951, 1957, 1962, 1968, 1978 and 1988) have taken place with no opposition candidate, although a vote was still held.

Presidential powers


The powers of the President of Israel are generally equivalent to those held by heads of state in other parliamentary democracies and are largely dictated by Basic Law: The Presidency
Basic Laws of Israel
The Basic Laws of Israel are a key component of Israel's constitutional law. These laws deal with the formation and role of the principal state's institutions, and the relations between the state's authorities. Some of them also protect civil rights...

, which was passed in 1964. The Basic Law: The Government also includes sections on the powers of the president with reference to the government
Cabinet of Israel
The Cabinet of Israel is a formal body composed of government officials called ministers, chosen and led by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must appoint members based on the distribution of votes to political parties during legislative elections, and its composition must be approved by a...

. The President signs every law (except those that pertain to the President's powers) and international or bilateral treaties approved by the Knesset. In addition, the President appoints the Governor of the Bank of Israel
Bank of Israel
The Bank of Israel is the central bank of Israel. It is located in Kiryat HaMemshala in Israel's capital city of Jerusalem, with a branch office in Tel Aviv. The current governor is Stanley Fischer.-History:...

, the State Comptroller upon recommendation of the Knesset House Committee, judges to secular, Rabbinical, Islamic, and military courts, members of the Council on Higher Education, the National Academy of Science, the Broadcasting Authority, the Authority to Rehabilitate Prisoners, the Chief Rabbinical Council, the Wolf Foundation
Wolf Foundation
The Wolf Foundation is a private not-for-profit organization in Israel established in 1975 by Dr. Ricardo Wolf, a German-born Jewish Cuban inventor and former Cuban ambassador to Israel.- Ricardo Wolf :...

, members of the Israeli Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Israel
The Supreme Court is at the head of the court system and highest judicial instance in Israel. The Supreme Court sits in Jerusalem.The area of its jurisdiction is all of Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. A ruling of the Supreme Court is binding upon every court, other than the Supreme...

 upon nomination by the Judicial Selection Committee
Judicial Selection Committee (Israel)
The Israeli Judicial Committee is the body that nominates Judges for Israeli courts. After their selection the judges are appointed by the President.The committee was established in 1953, following the enactment of the Judges Bill...

, the President of Magen David Adom
Magen David Adom
The Magen David Adom is Israel's national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service. The name means "Red Star of David"...

, the President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, based in Jerusalem, was set up in 1961 by the State of Israel to foster contact between scholars from the sciences and humanities in Israel, to advise the government on research projects of national importance, and to promote excellence. It comprises...

, and ceremonially appoints the Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

. The President also has the power to pardon or commute the sentences of both soldiers and civilians, and confirms and endorses the credentials of ambassadors and receives the credentials of the foreign diplomats.

To ensure the apolitical nature of the role, the president may "neither intervene politically nor express personal views on issues that divide the public".

In addition, paragraph 29a of The Government basic law also states that the president must give consent to dissolve the Knesset at the request of the Prime Minister in cases where the government has lost its majority, and that this prevents its effective functioning.

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

Presidential background


Most Israeli presidents were involved in national politics or Zionist
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 activities before taking office. Some were also distinguished in other fields, for example, Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Azriel Weizmann, , was a Zionist leader, President of the Zionist Organization, and the first President of the State of Israel. He was elected on 1 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952....

 was a leading research chemist who founded the Weizmann Institute of Science
Weizmann Institute of Science
The Weizmann Institute of Science , known as Machon Weizmann, is a university and research institute in Rehovot, Israel. It differs from other Israeli universities in that it offers only graduate and post-graduate studies in the sciences....

 in Rehovot
Rehovot
Rehovot is a city in the Center District of Israel, about south of Tel Aviv. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics , at the end of 2009 the city had a total population of 112,700. Rehovot's official website estimates the population at 114,000.Rehovot was built on the site of Doron,...

; Zalman Shazar
Zalman Shazar
Zalman Shazar was an Israeli politician, author. and poet. Shazar served as the third President of Israel from 1963 to 1973.-Biography:...

 was an author, poet, and journalist; and Chaim Herzog
Chaim Herzog
Chaim Herzog served as the sixth President of Israel , following a distinguished career in both the British Army and the Israel Defense Forces .-Early life:...

 was a military leader, attorney, and diplomat.

The first Israeli presidents were born in the former Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, which was true of much of the leadership in the early days of the state. The first native-born president, as well as the first with a Sephardic background, was Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon is an Israeli politician, diplomat, and author. He served as the fifth President of Israel between 1978 and 1982 as a member of the center-left Alignment party...

. The first president with a Western European background was Chaim Herzog, who originally came from Belfast
Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. The first president from a Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

ern country outside of Israel was Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav is an Israeli politician. He served as the eighth President of Israel, a leading Likud member of the Israeli Knesset, and a Cabinet Minister in its government....

, who was born in Persia
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

.

Political affiliation


All Israeli presidents from Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi was a historian, Labor Zionist leader, the second and longest-serving President of Israel.-Biography:...

 to Ezer Weizman
Ezer Weizman
' was the seventh President of Israel, first elected in 1993 and re-elected in 1998. Before the presidency, Weizman was commander of the Israeli Air Force and Minister of Defense.-Biography:...

 were members of, or associated with, the Labor Party and its predecessors, and have been considered politically moderate. Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav is an Israeli politician. He served as the eighth President of Israel, a leading Likud member of the Israeli Knesset, and a Cabinet Minister in its government....

 was the first Likud
Likud
Likud is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had...

 president. These tendencies were especially significant in the April 1978 election of Labor's Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon is an Israeli politician, diplomat, and author. He served as the fifth President of Israel between 1978 and 1982 as a member of the center-left Alignment party...

, 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
Chaim Herzog
Chaim Herzog served as the sixth President of Israel , following a distinguished career in both the British Army and the Israel Defense Forces .-Early life:...

 (previously head of military intelligence and Ambassador of Israel to the United Nations
Israel Ambassador to the United Nations
Israel Ambassador to the United Nations, full title, Representative of Israel to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, :-External links:*...

) succeeded him as Israel's sixth president. Likud's Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav is an Israeli politician. He served as the eighth President of Israel, a leading Likud member of the Israeli Knesset, and a Cabinet Minister in its government....

's victory over Labor's Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres
GCMG is the ninth President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as the eighth Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years...

 in 2000 (by secret ballot) was an upset.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

, 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." Ehud Olmert was reported to be considering offering the presidency to another non-Israeli, Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel
Sir Eliezer "Elie" Wiesel KBE; born September 30, 1928) is a Hungarian-born Jewish-American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor. He is the author of 57 books, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz, Buna, and...

, but he was said to be "very not interested".

List of Presidents of the State of Israel


Living former presidents


As of December 2010, there are two living former presidents. The most recent president to die was Ephraim Katzir
Ephraim Katzir
Ephraim Katzir was an Israeli biophysicist and former Israeli Labor Party politician. He was the fourth President of Israel from 1973 until 1978.-Biography:...

 (1973–1978), on 30 May 2009. The most recently serving president to die was Ezer Weizman
Ezer Weizman
' was the seventh President of Israel, first elected in 1993 and re-elected in 1998. Before the presidency, Weizman was commander of the Israeli Air Force and Minister of Defense.-Biography:...

 (1993–2000), who died on 24 April 2005.
NameTerm of officeDate of birth
Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon
Yitzhak Navon is an Israeli politician, diplomat, and author. He served as the fifth President of Israel between 1978 and 1982 as a member of the center-left Alignment party...

1978–1983 9 April 1921
Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav is an Israeli politician. He served as the eighth President of Israel, a leading Likud member of the Israeli Knesset, and a Cabinet Minister in its government....

2000–2007 5 December 1945

External links