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Schusterman Center for Israel Studies Research Guide

The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, founded in 2007, is dedicated to promoting exemplary teaching and scholarship in Israeli history, politics, culture, and society at Brandeis University and beyond.

The Israeli Political System

Knesset (Israeli parliament) - all seats full
The Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in session

Israel has a parliamentary system, in which the head of the legislature is also the chief executive (i.e. the Prime Minister).

The President of Israel is a largely ceremonial office.

Proportional Representational System

  • Israel’s election system is a proportional representational system, in which parties are rewarded the number of seats proportional to the number of votes it receives. This system uses a closed-list, in which voters vote for a party, as opposed to specific candidates running within any party. Some parties use a primary to determine their lists, while others announce their lists. There are also no constituencies, where an elected representative serves a particular region. 

3.25% Electoral Threshold

  • Israel has many parties owing to its great political, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. One votes for the party, and not a person directly. While the parties themselves can shift in names and technical designations, parties can generally be broken down into left, right, and center, or representing certain minority groups such as Haredi Jews or Israeli-Palestinians.  For example, the Likud party, the party of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been known as Herut and Mahal at different points in Israeli history. In order for a party to receive any seats, they must pass the electoral threshold of 3.25%. If a party does not meet this threshold, they may align with another party, and the alliance as a whole must meet the electoral threshold.

Multi-party Coalition Government

  • Because Israel has a multiparty system, the Knesset is made up of coalition governments, as no party has ever won a majority [61] of the 120 seats.  After the elections, the Israeli President determines which leader holds a chance to develop a coalition government. Generally, this has been the leader of the party receiving the most seats, but that is not always the case. This leader then has 42 days to negotiate a coalition with the other parties. The coalition is presented and voted on in a vote of confidence by the other members of Knesset. Because they can often make or break the coalition, small parties have an outsized influence in Israeli politics.

Early Elections

  • Israeli law requires that elections take place every four years following the previous election, but governments generally do not serve an entire term in Israel. Early elections can be called in a number of ways, including a majority vote by Knesset members, a decision by the President or, if continued gridlock within Knesset is preventing the passage of legislation. Additionally, if the budget is not passed, the Knesset goes to early elections.

Elections and Parties Resources