Reliable Security Information

Israel’s Political System

The Knesset

Seats in Israel's legislative assembly, the Knesset, are assigned through a system of nationwide proportional representation: Rather than electing individual candidates, voters cast ballots for an entire party. Any party receiving more than 2 percent of the vote is assigned a proportional number of seats in the 120-member legislature. Prior to the general election, each party holds an internal election to decide on a list of representatives to occupy any seats the party should win. If, for instance, a party wins ten seats, the first ten names on the slate will become members of the new Knesset. Each Knesset is expected to serve a four-year term. However, if a majority of the representatives agree, they may elect to dissolve the body and hold early elections. The legislature's tenure may also be prolonged beyond four years, though this requires a "special majority" of eighty votes. The Knesset elects the prime minister, and also holds the power to remove the president. New laws require a simple majority vote.

The  prime minister is elected by the Knesset. A prime-ministerial candidate must be a member of the Knesset and needs a simply majority of votes to be confirmed. Prime ministers are expected to serve four-year terms, though these may be shortened by a vote of no confidence in the Knesset. Such votes name a replacement candidate, who is given the opportunity to form his or her own government.

To form a new government, a prospective prime minister has forty-five days to fill cabinet positions and win Knesset approval. Since no single party has ever won a majority of the seats in the Knesset, this requires forming a coalition with other parties in order to win majority approval. After parliamentary elections, the president invites one of the party leaders...

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