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Knesset

From Academic Kids

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Knesset Buildinrg

The Knesset (כנסת, Hebrew for "assembly") is the Parliament of Israel. It is in Jerusalem.

As the legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset enacts laws, supervises the work of the government, and has the power to vote to remove the President of the State and the State Comptroller from office, dissolve itself by calling an early election, or replace the government and its Prime Minister by a vote of no-confidence. The Knesset first convened on February 14, 1949.

Laws passed by the Knesset may not conflict with the basic laws, which make up the de facto constitution of the country, but the Knesset also has the power to pass additional basic laws.

Contents

History, nature and composition

Template:Israelis

It is composed of 120 members elected in a single electorate to 4-year terms by a system of party-list proportional representation, but it hardly ever completes a full term.

The use of party-list proportional representation has had a profound effect on the nature of Israeli politics and thus on the wider Middle East conflict.

Prior to a national election each party holds an internal election to draft a party list showing who will sit in any Knesset seats it wins during the national election. Ideally this list should contain a full 120 names. As an example, if Likud won 23 seats during a national election those individuals at positions 1-23 on the Likud party list would be granted the seats in the Knesset.

In many democracies, voters elect only a single individual for an electorate. This leads to a direct (even personal) relationship between an elected individual and how well he or she serves constituents of a particular area. Under such a system the elected individual can be held personally accountable to the electorate. Many in Israel feel that their political system prevents them from holding their politicians accountable in this manner. Those with the greatest power in the party (and therefore those who become decision makers at a national level) are typically allocated priority positions on the party list. This means that their chances of failing to be re-elected are low regardless of how well they personally are seen to act.

One other effect of the use of party-list proportional representation is to cause the membership of the Knesset to be politically fragmented. Since no one party has ever achieved 61 seats (ie. greater than 50%) in the Knesset, all governments are made up of coalitions, very often containing a number of parties with only a few seats. This has meant that when the major parties like Likud and the Israeli Labour Party want to try to form a government following an election they must negotiate with a variety of parties in an effort to form a coalition containing at least 61 seats. This typically results in compromises of policy and sometimes bizarre political couplings.

The Israeli political system is widely regarded as giving disproportionately great power to the minor political parties, who become tie breakers. It has often been the case that the major parties have had to accept (sometimes extreme) minor parties into a coalition in order to be able to form a government. These minor parties are often able to veto and dictate major policy decisions by threatening to leave the coalition should their wishes not be followed, even contrary to the manifesto of the large parties and the most popular views of the Israeli public.

This situation has enabled extreme right wing parties, which have always been a political minority, to scuttle several promising peace initiatives over the last few decades, and prevented initiatives towards the separation of religion from the law, for example by allowing secular marriage unaffiliated to any faith, currently only officially sanctioned if performed abroad-(local marriage licenses must declare to be Jewish, Muslim, Christian or any of the other officially recognized religions). Although this issue is viewed favourably by an estimated 70% of Israelis (according to polls), so far it could not be implemented due to the power of small religious parties.

The largest parties, Labour and the Likud are more secular in nature, somewhat comparable to the Democrat and Republican parties in the United States, respectively, though they do not have to contend with pressures from smaller parties. On religion versus secularism in Israel, see also Israel-Politics and Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel#Politics_and_Law).

Regardless of any other factors, a party must receive 1.5% of the popular vote to be awarded even a single seat. This requirement is seen to somewhat mitigate the political fragmentation of the Knesset. However, this lower threshold is among the lowest in the democratised world; most countries with similar systems have set their "single seat threshold" at 5% or more.

Members of the Knesset have broad legal immunities regarding search, detention, free movement, and prosecution of acts relating to their duties. Members are also expected to avoid improper use of their immunities, conflicts of interest, etc., and transgressions may be dealt with by the Knesset Ethics Committee.

The 16th Knesset (2003) had 18 women parliament members (15%) and 3 Government ministers (13%). The first (and only, so far) woman as Prime minister was Golda Meir, from 1969 to 1974, who was also the second woman in the world in this role.

Israeli law forbids parliament registration (i.e. standing for election) of anti-democratic, racist or anti-Zionist parties. This law was the basis for court disqualification of the extremist right wing Kach party in 1988, whose manifesto advocated forceful transfer of the Arab population out of Israel, abolition of democracy and establishment of a religious theocracy.

The First Knesset (assembled during the War of Independence in 1949) had 3 Arab parliament members. Thereafter it has always included elected representatives among the Arab minority in Israel although in disproportionately small numbers (Arabs comprise about 20% of the population). This may be partly due to low voter participation rate inherent in that sector. There are also allegations of prejudice.

Alternate views argue that some of the elected Arab Knesset members oppose the very existence of the Knesset, Zionism and the current state of Israel, thus abusing democratic freedom and the intended nature of political participation in it. This allegation cites numerous acts of incitement by Arab Knesset members and meetings with leaders of Arab terrorist organizations abroad. Requests to disqualify Arab Knesset members on these grounds were denied by the Israeli High Court of Appeals, and the pettitioners view this as lack of symmetry in application of the law to Kach and Arab parties, favouring the latter.

In 2001, Israel's first Arab minister, Saleh Tarif, was nominated by Ariel Sharon. The current 16th Knesset assembly has 9 Arab parliament members, and 2 Druze. The main arab parties are Hadash, Balad and the United Arab List.

Knesset location and building

The current Knesset building is located on a hilltop in the west of Jerusalem, it was paid for by Lord James De Rothschild as a gift to the State of Israel. Before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War there was an Arab settlement called Sheikh Badr on the site. The Knesset has had several locations:

  1. February 14, 1949: First meeting of the Constituent Assembly, Jewish Agency building, Jerusalem.
  2. March 8, 1949-December 14, 1949: Sittings held in the Kessem Cinema in Tel Aviv.
  3. December 26, 1949-March 8, 1950: Reconvenes in the Jewish Agency building, Jerusalem.
  4. March 13, 1950: Temporary location at "Froumine Building", King George Street, Jerusalem.
  5. 1957: Lord James De Rothschild advises Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that he will donate the funds for the permanent Knesset building.
  6. October 14, 1958: Laying of the cornerstone for new Knesset building.
  7. August 31, 1966: Dedicated of the new building during the sixth Knesset.
  8. 1981: New wing built, opened in 1992.
  9. 2005: Additional wing presently being built.

The Knesset Assemblies

The Knesset term (the condition of the Knesset between two general elections for parliament) is called "Assembly". For example: the first term of the Knesset from 1949 to 1951 was called "The 1st assembly" הכנסת הראשונה. The current assembly is the 16th Assembly ( הכנסת ה 16, ha-Knesset ha-Shesh-Esre).

Composition of the 1st Knesset Assembly (elected 1949)

Composition of the 2nd Knesset Assembly (elected 1951)

*Mapam and Ahdut Ha'avodah-Po'alei Zion split in the course of the term, but the Knesset Parliamentary Group remained united.

**Minority lists associated with Mapai

Composition of the 3rd Knesset Assembly (elected 1955

  • Mapai 40
  • Herut Movement 15
  • General Zionists 13
  • United Religious Front 11
  • Ahdut Ha'avodah 10
  • Mapam 9
  • Religious Torah Front 6
  • Maki 6
  • Progressive Party 5
  • Democratic list of Israeli Arabs* 2
  • Kidmah Va'avodah* 2
  • Hakla`ut Ufituah* 1

*Minority lists associated with Mapai

Composition of the 4th Knesset Assembly (elected 1959)

*Minority lists associated with Mapai

Composition of the 5th Knesset Assembly (elected 1961)

*Minority lists associated with Mapai

Composition of the 6th Knesset Assembly (elected 1965)

*Minority lists associated with Mapai

Composition of the 7th Knesset Assembly (elected 1969)

*Minority lists associated with Mapai

Composition of the 8th Knesset Assembly (elected 1973)

*Minority lists associated with Mapai

Composition of the 9th Knesset Assembly (elected 1977)

*Minority lists associated with Mapai

Composition of the 10th Knesset Assembly (elected 1981)

Composition of the 11th Knesset Assembly (elected 1984)

* no connection with the Yachad party formed in 2004.

Composition of the 12th Knesset Assembly (elected 1988)

Composition of the 13th Knesset Assembly (elected 1992)

Composition of the 14th Knesset Assembly (elected 1996)

Composition of the 15th Knesset Assembly (elected 1999)

Composition of the 16th Knesset Assembly (elected 2003)

See also

External links

de:Knesset et:Knesset es:Knesset eo:Kneset fr:Knesset it:Knesset he:הכנסת nl:Knesset ja:クネセト pl:Knesset sv:Kneset

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