conventional long form: State of Israel

conventional short form: Israel

local long form: Medinat Yisra'el

local short form: Yisra'el

etymology: named after the ancient Kingdom of Israel; according to Biblical tradition, the Jewish patriarch Jacob received the name "Israel" ("He who struggles with God") after he wrestled an entire night with an angel of the Lord; Jacob's 12 sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who formed the Kingdom of Israel

Government type

parliamentary democracy

Capital

name: Jerusalem; note - the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 without taking a position on the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty

geographic coordinates: 31 46 N, 35 14 E

time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, Friday before the last Sunday in March; ends the last Sunday in October

etymology: Jerusalem's settlement may date back to 2800 B.C.; it is named Urushalim in Egyptian texts of the 14th century B.C.; "uru-shalim" likely means "foundation of [by] the god Shalim", and derives from Hebrew/Semitic "yry", "to found or lay a cornerstone", and Shalim, the Canaanite god of dusk and the nether world; Shalim was associated with sunset and peace and the name is based on the same S-L-M root from which Semitic words for "peace" are derived (Salam or Shalom in modern Arabic and Hebrew); this confluence has thus led to naming interpretations such as "The City of Peace" or "The Abode of Peace"

Administrative divisions

6 districts (mehozot, singular - mehoz); Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv

Independence

14 May 1948 (following League of Nations mandate under British administration)

National holiday

Independence Day, 14 May (1948); note - Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, but the Jewish calendar is lunar and the holiday may occur in April or May

Constitution

history: no formal constitution; some functions of a constitution are filled by the Declaration of Establishment (1948), the Basic Laws, and the Law of Return (as amended)

amendments: proposed by Government of Israel ministers or by the Knesset; passage requires a majority vote of Knesset members and subject to Supreme Court judicial review; 11 of the 13 Basic Laws have been amended at least once, latest in 2020 (Basic Law: the Knesset) (2021)

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious laws

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; withdrew acceptance of ICCt jurisdiction in 2002

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Israel

dual citizenship recognized: yes, but naturalized citizens are not allowed to maintain dual citizenship

residency requirement for naturalization: 3 out of the 5 years preceding the application for naturalization

note: Israeli law (Law of Return, 5 July 1950) provides for the granting of citizenship to any Jew - defined as a person being born to a Jewish mother or having converted to Judaism while renouncing any other religion - who immigrates to and expresses a desire to settle in Israel on the basis of the Right of aliyah; the 1970 amendment of this act extended the right to family members including the spouse of a Jew, any child or grandchild, and the spouses of children and grandchildren

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal; 17 years of age for municipal elections

Executive branch

chief of state:  President Reuben RIVLIN (since 27 July 2014)

head of government:  Prime Minister Binyamin NETANYAHU (since 31 March 2009)

cabinet: Cabinet selected by prime minister and approved by the Knesset 

elections/appointments: president indirectly elected by the Knesset for a single 7-year term; election last held on 10 June 2014 (next to be held in 2021); following legislative elections, the president, in consultation with party leaders, tasks a Knesset member (usually the member of the largest party) with forming a government

election results: Reuven RIVLIN elected president in second round; Knesset vote - Reuven RIVLIN (Likud) 63, Meir SHEETRIT (The Movement) 53, other/invalid 4; note - on 20 May 2020 – after three national elections, each ending in failed bids by Prime Minister Binyamin NETANYAHU and Blue and White party leader Benny GANTZ to form a coalition government, both signed an agreement on the formation of a national emergency government in which NETANYAHU continues as prime minister for 18 months when GANTZ will replace him

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Knesset (120 seats; members directly elected in a single nationwide constituency by closed-list proportional representation vote, with a 3.25% threshold to gain representation; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 2 March 2020 (next to be held on 23 March 2021)

election results: percent by party (preliminary) - Likud 29.2%, Blue and White 26.4%, Joint List 13.1%, Shas 7.7%, United Torah Judaism 6.2%, Yisrael Beiteinu 5.9%, Labor-Gesher-Meretz 5.7%, Yamina 5%, other 0.8%; seats by party (preliminary) - Likud 36, Blue and White 33, Joint List 15, Shas 9, United Torah Judaism 7, Yisrael Beiteinu 7, Labor-Gesher Meretz 7, Yamina 6; composition - NA

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of the president, deputy president, 13 justices, and 2 registrars) and normally sits in panels of 3 justices; in special cases, the panel is expanded with an uneven number of justices

judge selection and term of office: judges selected by the 9-member Judicial Selection Committee, consisting of the Minister of Justice (chair), the president of the Supreme Court, two other Supreme Court justices, 1 other Cabinet minister, 2 Knesset members, and 2 representatives of the Israel Bar Association; judges can serve up to mandatory retirement at age 70

subordinate courts: district and magistrate courts; national and regional labor courts; family and juvenile courts; special and religious courts

Political parties and leaders

Democratic Union [Nitzan HOROWITZ] (alliance includes Democratic Israel, Meretz, Green Movement)
Joint List [Ayman ODEH] (alliance includes Hadash, Ta’al, United Arab List, Balad)
Kahol Lavan [Benny GANTZ] (alliance includes Israeli Resilience, Yesh Atid, Telem)
Labor-Gesher [Amir PERETZ]
Likud [Binyamin NETANYAHU]
Otzma Yehudit [Itamar BEN-GVIR]
SHAS [Arye DERI]
United Torah Judaism, or UTJ [Yaakov LITZMAN] (alliance includes Agudat Israel and Degel HaTorah)
Yamina [Ayelet SHAKED]
Yisrael Beiteinu [Avigdor LIEBERMAN]
Zehut [Moshe FEIGLIN]