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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