Israel is a Jewish and democratic republic with a parliamentary form of government divided into three branches, the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. Each branch of government is regulated by a basic law that defines its exact functions. The Executive administration of Israel consists of the Cabinet, also called the Government, and all its agencies and offices. The Cabinet determines the policy of the state in all matters - domestic and foreign. The head of the Cabinet or Government is the Prime Minister, joined by a team of ministers who administer all the affairs of the state. The Prime Minister is chosen from the largest political party or bloc in the Knesset which has the support of at least 61 Knesset members. Once in office, the Government can rule sometimes even with minority support in the Knesset, until a new election is called.
The legislative authority of the state is the Knesset, consisting of 120 members representing a plethora of political parties reflecting the entire spectrum of political thought or ideology. Elections are held once every four years to choose a new Knesset. The Knesset is responsible for enacting all the laws or statutes that govern the country. Though no written constitution exists, there are so far 11 basic laws which will become part of the framework for an eventual constitution. The Knesset is considered to be the repository of Israel's sovereignty. However, in its day-to-day operations, it is the Cabinet or Government that really decides the country's agenda.
The judiciary interprets and enforces the laws enacted by the Knesset, and in certain rare instances can declare a law unconstitutional and so - null and void. The principal law courts exercising civil and criminal jurisdiction are the Magistrate's Court, followed by the District Court and, above it, the Supreme Court. The latter is a final court of appeal for certain cases emanating from the District Court and also acts as a High Court of Justice in matters involving alleged unjust or unreasonable governmental conduct or those of constitutional importance. All Supreme Court rulings are binding on lower courts, but not on itself. In addition to the principal civil courts and other lesser courts (municipal, military, etc.), there also exist religious courts set up for the different religious communities having jurisdiction in matters of marriage and divorce.
The Head of the State of Israel is the President who is elected by the Knesset and serves for a period of five years. He signs all laws enacted by the Knesset. Though his position is largely ceremonial, he has the authority to choose the member of Knesset best able to form a new government after an election is held; this may involve the use of discretion on his part. The President is also empowered to pardon or to reduce the sentences of persons convicted of crimes, though generally on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice.