The Knesset is the legislative branch of the Israeli government. Its name, whose Hebrew translation means literally 'the gathering' or 'the assembly, is a derivative of the ancient Great Assembly,' the gathering of 120 sages that governed the Jewish people between the end of the Biblical prophets until 200 B.C. The Knesset is the national legislature of the State of Israel and passes all of the country's laws, in addition to electing the president, approving the cabinet and supervising governmental work. The Knesset functions as the unicameral national legislature in Israel in a parliamentary manner, with elections forming members of Knesset (MKs) held at least every fourth year. Knesset history The Knesset first convened on February 14th, 1949, taking over for transitional governments that had existed since Israel declared independence on May 14th, 1948, and met in the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem. Between March and December of that year the legislature was moved to Tel Aviv, the only period the Knesset was not seated in Jerusalem. Following a four-month return to the Jewish Agency building, the Knesset moved to King George Street in the city center, where it remained until the current complex was opened in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Ram, August 31st, 1966. The Knesset complex was funded by British Liberal politician James de Rothschild and has underwent two major additions, completed in 1992 and 2007. Knesset functions The Knesset sets the laws of the State of Israel and oversees governmental works via a series of 12 permanent committees, which include ones focused on foreign affairs and defense, education and culture, economics and the status of women, among others. Special committees can also be formed when necessity arises, such as the central elections committee and the public petitions committee, among others. The Knesset, as a parliamentary system, is presided over by the Speaker of Knesset and passes laws based off a simple majority of the 120-member voting bloc. Israel's prime minister, as head of the ruling party, is determined by the party best able to form a coalition comprised of at the minimum a simple majority. Knesset seats are allocated based on proportional representation using the D'Hondt method and parties are admitted to Knesset when passing an election threshold of 3.25 percent. Members of Knesset have the ability to raise a vote of no confidence in the government or in government ministers, a move that was only once successful in Knesset's history. Likewise, in order for a prime minister to be named, the candidate must receive a vote of confidence on the Knesset floor before taking office. Knesset assemblies There have been 20 assemblies of Knesset in Israel's history, each referred to by its election number. The First Knesset, under the auspices of prime minister David Ben-Gurion, was in session from 1949 until 1951. Elections occurred by and large every fourth year, unless elections were called early. However, no Knesset term lasted fewer than three years, except for the 19th Knesset, which lasted from 2013 until 2015.
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Cigarettes and ashtray, illustrative

Israel advances bill to ban cigarette ads in newspapers

The bill, sponsored by MK Mossi Raz (Meretz), would eliminate a loophole in the existing law that exempted newspapers from the prohibition of tobacco advertising. 

Yamina MK Abir kara in the Knesset plenum right after the vote, July 1, 2021.

Israel Police probing dep. minister double voting in Knesset

"It's no big deal," Deputy Minister Abir Kara (Yamina) said Wednesday.


Rabbinical Courts gain authority to sanction foreign divorce refusers

In Israel, divorce refusers can have their driving licenses and passports revoked, restrictions placed on their bank account and even imprisonment.

MK Sharren Haskel before the cannabis legalization vote

Cannabis committee created as Knesset committee war continues

Special Knesset Cannabis Committee headed by New Hope MK Sharren Haskel has been formed.


Purchase tax on second homes to rise to 8%

An 8% purchase tax on second apartments intended for investment was signed into law on Tuesday, in an effort to cool down the red-hot housing market.


Leftist activist calls for civilian guards to protect Palestinians

Left-wing activist Haim Shadmi suggested allowing him to create a civilian guard to protect Palestinians from settler violence.

Should Israel embrace term limits? - opinion

It is now up to us, the citizens, to head to the virtual town square and support our 120 lawmakers who will deliberate this issue in the coming weeks.


What can be done about Amsalem? - opinion

Even if by some miracle Mickey Levy manages to form an Ethics Committee, it is questionable whether it can effectively deal with phenomena such as MK David Amsalem, whose verbiage is unaccebtable.

Cabinet approves term limits for Israeli prime ministers

The bill is expected to pass in the Knesset plenum on Monday. It must pass three more times in committee and the plenum to become law.


Ethiopian Jewry: Will Israel repeat mistakes?

Israel must bring all of the 14,100 Ethiopian Jews who have been awaiting aliyah, in some cases for decades. Otherwise Israel will be partially responsible for deaths which could have been avoided.

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