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PBS NewsHour: Israeli Election Primer - What You Should Know

Author: Elise Garofalo
January 21, 2013

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Elise Garofalo explains the Israeli election process and describes the many different political parties in Israel.

How Do Israelis Elect Their Leaders?

Israelis 18 years and older will vote in elections for the Knesset, the 120-seat unicameral legislative body, on Tuesday. Ballots are cast not for candidates but for political parties, whose members receive seats on a proportional basis and serve for up to four-year terms. It is rare that an Israeli government makes it through all four years. A party must receive at least 2 percent of the vote to receive seats.

The prime minister, who serves as head of government, is usually but not always the leader of the party which wins the most seats (in 2009, Kadima won the most votes in the election but was unable to build a coalition). He or she is tasked with building a coalition government and Cabinet from allied parties. The Cabinet serves as the executive branch of the Israeli government. The president is elected by the Knesset for a seven-year term, but it is largely a ceremonial role.

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