The Basic Legal System Of Israel
Israel is a parliamentary democracy which consists of three branches: the legislature; the executive; and the judiciary.5 min read
Israel is a parliamentary democracy which consists of three branches: the legislature (the Knesset); the executive (the government); and the judiciary (the court system). It is based on the principle of separation of powers, with checks and balances built into the system.
The government is subject to the confidence of the Knesset, and the absolute independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by law. The president is the head of state; the office symbolizes the unity of the state and carries high prestige and moral force, above and beyond party politics.
Judiciary: The Court System
The judiciary is entirely independent. Judges are appointed by the president upon recommendation of a special nine-person committee composed of three Supreme Court justices, two members of the Israeli Bar and four public figures (i.e. government ministers, Knesset members). Judges receive appointments for life, with retirement at age 70.
Although legislative competence is wholly within the Knesset, the Supreme Court can and does call attention to the desirability of legislative changes; sitting as the High Court of Justice, it has the authority to determine whether a law properly conforms with the Basic Laws of the state.
The Court System
Magistrates' Court (1 judge) -- Civil and minor criminal offenses.
District Court (1 or 3 judges) -- Appellate jurisdiction over magistrates' courts; original jurisdiction in more important civil and criminal cases.
Supreme Court (1, 3, or 5 judges) -- Ultimate appellate jurisdiction; right to address issues when necessary to intervene for sake of justice; original jurisdiction in petitions for orders against the government, its ministers and all public officers/ agencies; authority to release persons detained or imprisoned illegally; power to override decisions of other courts should they exceed their jurisdiction.
Special Courts (1 judge) -- Traffic, labor, juvenile and municipal courts, with clearly defined jurisdiction; administrative tribunals.
Religious Courts (1 or 3 judges) -- Jurisdiction in matters of marriage and divorce; in rabbinical courts for Jews; sharia courts for Muslims and Druze; ecclesiastical courts for Christians.
The Attorney General, the chief legal adviser to the government and the head of the prosecution, heads the government legal service and holds exclusive power to represent the state in all major criminal, civil and administrative matters. The government is bound to abstain from any action which, in the opinion of the Attorney General, is unlawful, as long as the courts do not rule otherwise. Although appointed by the government, the Attorney General functions totally independently of the political system.