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Presidents of Israel

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Presidents of Israel

The following table lists the presidents of the state of Israel since its inception.

Num. President Start Term End  Term Remarks
1 Chaim Weizmann Feb, 17, 1949 Nov. 9, 1952 Head of the Zionist movement for many years, Weizmann was responsible for obtaining the Balfour Declaration and for founding the Weizmann Institute of Science. From May 17, 1948 until he became President, Weizmann was acting Chairman of the provisional government. Weizmann died in office and was temporarily succeeded by Knesset speaker Yosef Shprinzak.
2 Yitzhak Ben Zvi (Izhak Ben Tzvi) Dec. 8, 1952 April 23, 1963 Mapai politician, pioneer and ideologue Ben-Tzvi was a founder of the Labor Zionist movement. Ben-Tzvi tied in office and was temporarily succeeded by Knesset speaker Kaddish Luz.
3 Zalman Shazar May 21, 1963 May 24, 1973 Mapai politician, author and poet Shazar was a veteran leader of the Zionist movement.
4 Katzir, Ephraim May 24, 1973 April 19, 1978 Katzir, a member of the Labor Alignment Party, was a distinguished scientist and helped to found Israel's Defense industries. 
5 Yitzhak Navon (Izhak Navon) April 19, 1978 May 5, 1983 Navon, a member of the Labor Alignment Party, was a distinguished educator.

Chaim Herzog

May 5, 1983 May 13, 1993 Labor Alignment Party candidate Herzog  was formerly a prominent military leader and Israeli ambassador to the U.N. 
7 Ezer Weizman May 13, 1993 July 13, 2000 Labor Party candidate Weizman was among the founders of Israel Air Force and was a commander of the IAF. He resigned in the face of accusations of financial misconduct. Knesset speaker Avraham Burg took over as acting president.
8 Moshe Katsav Aug. 1, 2000 July 1, 2007 Likud party candidate Katsav was mayor of a small town and a minor Likud MK. He was dismissed from office in disgrace in 2007 following repeated accusations of sexual misconduct. Knesset Speaker Dalia Izik took over as acting president until new elections were held.
9 Shimon Peres July 15, 2000 Current Kadima Party and Labor party candidate Peres has a distinguished record of service for Israel the Labor Party. He played a key role in defense procurement for the new state of Israel, served in various political capacities including Prime Minister, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo accords.

 The Israeli Presidency

The Israeli presidency is similar in function to that of many European parliamentary states. That is, it is largely a ceremonial, figurehead position that in some ways takes the place of the monarch in a constitutional monarchy. The President is elected to a seven year term (before 2000: 5 years) by vote of the Israeli Knesset. Selection of candidates to the office is therefore governed to some extent by political considerations, but the office is supposed to be above politics.

Major Presidential functions:

Represents Israel in foreign affairs wherever protocol calls for a head of state. 

Signs every law other than laws regarding presidential powers.

Selects a member of the Knesset, usually the head of the party that received the most votes, to form the government in consultation with the parties making up the body, and according to the election laws.

Confirms credentials of diplomats and receives foreign diplomats.

Signs treaties with foreign countries after they are ratified by the Knesset.

Appoints judges of the Supreme Court based on the recommendation  of the Judicial Appointments Committee.

Appoints the governor of the Bank of Israel and other bureaucrats upon advice of the Prime Minister.

Issues pardons to criminals and commutes sentences.

The president is intended to be a person of exceptional intellectual and political achievement.  Past presidents included leaders of the Zionist movement and leading intellectuals. In office, they may take up various initiatives in their field of expertise, furthering peace, scientific research or Jewish studies. Some presidents have also taken an activist role, speaking out on issues of national concern.

Though he or she is elected by partisan political vote, the President is supposed to be a consensus figure. Originally, the President was elected at each Knesset election. After the second election in 1951, the law was changed to allow a 5 year term and divorce the office from partisan politics. In 2000, the law was changed to allow a 7 year term.

Under current law, a president's term of office may be terminated prematurely by a vote of 3/4 of the Knesset. If the President is removed from office or incapacitated, the speaker of the Knesset becomes the acting President.

Partisan political considerations interfered in only one presidential election. In 2000, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres, the candidate of the Labor Party, ran against Moshe Katsav, a hack politician who was the candidate of the Likud. Religious parties that had promised their vote to Peres evidently changed it and voted for Katsav, who won an upset victory. Katsav embarrassed Israel in various ways, memorably by telling American Zionist leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism that Reform rabbis are not "real" rabbis. Subsequently, repeated accusations of rape made against Katsav by his secretary and other office personnel forced his resignation, and Shimon Peres became president in 2007. The legal case against Katsav is still pending resolution.



Ami Isseroff

November 30, 2008

Copyright © 2008

Do not copy this or any other article to your Web site or use it for any purpose without the written permission of the author.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Mivtza Moked

Further Information:



מבצע מוקד

Oren, Michael, Six Days of War, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp 171-178.

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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