Israel is secular democratic republic and has been independent since 1948.
It was a province of the Ottoman Empire from 1516-1917 and was ruled by the British Mandate
between the two World Wars. The official capital is Jerusalem, although many administrative
functions are located in Tel Aviv.
The head of state is the President, who is directly elected for five-year terms, although
his powers are largely ceremonial. The Prime Minister is the head of government.
Formerly the leader of the political party receiving the most votes, the Prime Minister has
been directly elected by the people ever since the 1992 reform of the "Basic Law:
The primary legislative body is the Knesset, a 120-person parliament, whose members are
proportionally elected, with each political party allocated numbers of seats in direct
proportion to the percentage of popular votes received. While there are over thirty
registered political parties in Israel, the dominant two are the Likud, representing the
Moderate Right, and Labor, representing the Moderate Left. A party must build a coalition
of at least 61 members in order to stay in power.
The top judicial body is the Israeli Supreme Court, with nine permanent and two temporary
members, which is charged with interpreting the law. While Israel does not have a formal
written constitution, eleven "Basic Laws" serve this purpose.
As of this writing, Moshe Katsav is the President of Israel.