The Presidency

The nassi (president) bears the ancient title of the head of the Sanhedrin, the supreme legislative and judicial body of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel in ancient times. The president is the head of state, with the presidency symbolizing the nation's unity, above and beyond party politics. The president, who may serve two consecutive five-year terms, is elected by a simple majority of the Knesset from among candidates nominated on the basis of their personal stature and lifelong contribution to the state.

Presidential duties, which are mostly ceremonial and formal, are defined by law. They include opening the first session of a new Knesset; accepting the credentials of foreign envoys; signing treaties and laws adopted by the Knesset; appointing, on recommendation of appropriate bodies, the heads of Israel's diplomatic missions abroad, judges and the governor of the Bank of Israel; and pardoning prisoners, on advice of the minister of justice. In addition, the president performs public functions and informal tasks such as hearing citizens' appeals, lending prestige to community organizations and strengthening campaigns to improve the quality of life in the society at large.

Israel's Presidents

Chaim Weizmann (1949-52), Zionist leader, prominent scientist

Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (1952-63), head of the Jewish Agency, historian

Zalman Shazar (1963-73), politician, scholar, historian, author, poet

Ephraim Katzir (1973-78), renowned biochemist

Yitzhak Navon (1978-83), politician, educator, author

Chaim Herzog (1983-93), attorney, general, diplomat, author

Ezer Weizman (1993-2000), air force general, politician, businessman

Moshe Katsav (2000-2007), politician

Shimon Peres (2007- ), statesman

Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry