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Israel Executive Branch: History & Overview

The executive authority of the state is the government (cabinet of ministers), charged with administering internal and foreign affairs, including security matters. Its policy­making powers are very wide, and it is authorized to take action on any issue which is not delegated by law to another authority.

The government determines its own working and decision-making procedures. It usually meets once a week, but additional meetings may be called as needed. It may also act through ministerial committees.

All governments to date have been based on coalitions of several parties, since no party has ever received enough Knesset seats to form a government by itself.

To form a government, the newly-elected prime minister has to present, within 45 days of publication of the election results, a list of ministers for Knesset approval, together with an outline of proposed government guidelines.

Once approved, the ministers are responsible to the prime minister for the fulfillment of their duties and accountable to the Knesset for their actions. Most ministers are assigned a portfolio and head a ministry; ministers who function without portfolio may be called upon to assume responsibility for special projects. The prime minister may serve also as a minister with a portfolio.

The number of ministers, including the prime minister, may not exceed 18 nor be less than eight. At least half must be Knesset members, but all must be eligible for Knesset membership. The prime minister, or another minister with prime ministerial approval, may appoint deputy ministers, up to a total of six; all must be Knesset members.

Like the Knesset, the government usually serves for four years, but its term may be shortened by the resignation or death of the prime minister, or a vote of no-confidence by the Knesset. The prime minister and ministers of an outgoing government continue their duties until a new prime minister and a new government begin their term.

If the prime minister is unable to continue in office due to death, resignation, impeachment or a Knesset vote of no-confidence, the government appoints one of its members (who must also be a Knesset member) as acting prime minister; he assumes all the powers of office except the authority to dissolve the Knesset. Other ministers continue to fulfill their duties until a new prime minister is elected and takes office.