Israel is a democratic republic, with no written constitution. It is basically governed under the 1948 Declaration of Establishment as well as parliamentary and citizenship laws. The country is divided into six administrative districts (mehoz).
Legislative power is vested in the unicameral Knesset (parliament), whose 120 members are elected for four-year terms by universal secret vote of all citizens 18 years of age and over, under a system of proportional representation. New elections may be called ahead of schedule, and must be held when the government loses the confidence of a majority of parliament.
The head of state is the President, elected by the Knesset for a five-year term. The President performs largely ceremonial duties and traditionally choses the Prime Minister from the ruling political party. In 1996, however, a new law went into effect whereby the Prime Minister would be directly elected by the people. The Prime Minister is able to sack members of the Cabinet, but to satisfy Israeli law he must do this in writing and new appointees must again be approved by the Knesset. Most Ministers are heads of government departments.
Israel's judicial system is comprised of a three-tier system of courts. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and as courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel's six districts. The third and highest court in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as both the highest court of appeals and as the High Court of Justice. In its role as the High Court of Justice, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, primarily in matters regarding the legality of decisions of State authorities. Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court as it fears the court would be biased due to political pressure.
Israel's legal system mixes influences from English common law, civil law and Jewish law, as well as the declaration of the State of Israel. As in English law, the Israeli legal system is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent). It is an adversarial system (as opposed to an inquisitorial system) whereby parties are responsible for bringing evidence before a court. Court cases are decided by professional judges instead of juries in accordance with the practices of civil law. Meanwhile, religious tribunals (Jewish, Muslim, Druze and Christian) have exclusive jurisdiction on annulment of marriages. A committee composed of Knesset members, Supreme Court Justices and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges.
conventional long form: State of Israel
conventional short form: Israel
local long form: Medinat Yisra'el
local short form: Yisra'el
geographic coordinates: 32 05 N, 34 48 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Friday in March; ends the Sunday between the holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur
note: Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the US, like nearly all other countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv
6 districts (mehozot, singular - mehoz); Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv
14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)
Independence Day, 14 May (1948); note - Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, but the Jewish calendar is lunar and the holiday may occur in April or May
no formal constitution; some of the functions of a constitution are filled by the Declaration of Establishment (1948), the Basic Laws of the parliament (Knesset), and the Israeli citizenship law; note - since May 2003 the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee of the Knesset has been working on a draft constitution
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