The Israeli President

The Israeli presidency is largely a ceremonial role.

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Excerpted with permission from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

The president, Israel's head of state, is elected to a five-year term by a majority of the Knesset in a secret ballot. The president can be re-elected for only one more consecutive term. 

Special Duties

The president appoints senior state officials in positions of special importance and independence, including the state comptroller, the governor of the Bank of Israel, the president and deputy-president of the Supreme Court, and judges, including rabbinical judges and Muslim and Druze qadis [religious judges]. The president also appoints the president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the president of Magen David Adom [Israel's equivalent to the Red Cross], and members of the Chief Rabbinate Council, the Council for Higher Education, the Broadcasting Authority plenum, and other public councils.

The president accredits Israel's envoys to foreign countries and accepts the credentials of foreign diplomats serving in Israel. He signs every law enacted by the Knesset and treaties and agreements with foreign countries that have been ratified by the Knesset. The president maintains constant contact with the government through regular meetings with officials, weekly briefings on government sessions, and receiving regular, comprehensive information from the various government agencies.

Presidential Powers

The president has exclusive power to pardon or commute the sentences of civilians and soldiers. Because of the exalted status of his position, the president represents not only Israel but the entire Jewish people. As such, he assumes a lengthy series of duties and activities beyond those spelled out in law. The president maintains contacts with Diaspora Jewish leaders and high-ranking visitors from overseas; promotes cultural and educational activity in Israel; and acts to enhance Jewish and Zionist education for Diaspora youth in order to encourage their immigration to Israel. He works to resolve social and welfare problems as well as to advance weak strata of the population. The president tours the country extensively and maintains close relations with all segments of the population.

 

Chaim Weizmann (left), Israel's first president, and Moshe Katsav (right). Photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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