Basic Law: The Knesset
The "Basic Law: The Knesset" law is one of the laws which regulate the democratic nature of the State of Israel. Others laws in this category include Basic Law: The Government, Basic Law: the Army, Basic Law: The Judiciary.
The primary ruling of this Basic Law is the designation of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, as the house of the people's elected representatives (Section 1). In Section 4, the Basic Law defines the guiding principles of Israeli democratic elections – this section states that elections for the Knesset will be general, directly national, equal, secret and proportional. This section of the law is "reserved," which means that it can only be changed by a majority vote of 61 Knesset Members.
Included in the basic rights determined by the Basic Law: The Knesset:
- The right to vote: Section 5 states that any Israeli citizen who is 18 years of age or older is entitled to vote for the Knesset, except in cases where a court has revoked this right by law. (The Knesset has not legislated any law which allows the revocation of a citizens' right to vote for Knesset.)
- The right to be elected: Section 6 of the Basic Law determines that any Israeli citizen who is 21 years of age or older on the date that candidates must submit their lists to the Registrar, is entitled to be elected to the Knesset. The following exceptions detail situations in which a citizen of age will not be permitted to run for Knesset:
- If a court revokes the citizen's right, in accordance with the law; or
- The citizen was convicted , in a final ruling, with a prison sentence of over three months, and at the time of submitting the list of candidates, seven years have not yet passed since his/ her sentence ended – unless the Chairman of the Central Elections Committee were to decide that the crime for which s/he served the prison sentence is a "No Shame" crime; or
- A citizen who is, at the time of the elections or in the predefined time period before the elections, serving in any of the following positions:
- President of the State of Israel
- The Chief Rabbis of Israel (two positions)
- A court judge
- A judge in a religious court
- State Comptroller
- Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces
- Rabbis and leaders of other religious groups, if they are employed in paid positions of religious leadership
- Senior civil servants and high-ranking army officers, as well as army officers in certain positions, as determined by law
- Senior and high ranking police officers an prison officials, as well as those in certain positions, as determined by law
- Employees of institutionalized corporations, in roles and positions determined by law
- A list of candidates will not be permitted to run in the Knesset Elections if, in its goals or actions, or the actions of its members, are any elements of rejection of the State of Israel as the State of the Jewish People; rejection of the democratic nature of the State of Israel; any incitement to racism; or any support of an enemy country or terror organization in armed struggle against the State of Israel.
- To this end, any person who , illegally, resided in an enemy country in the seven years prior to submitting the candidates list to the registrar, will be viewed as someone whose actions support armed struggle against the State of Israel, unless they prove otherwise, as per Section 7a(1a) of the Basic Law.
Alongside these basic laws which define the democratic nature of the State of Israel and the basic rights of citizens, the Basic Law: The Knesset determines various issues regarding the elections, such as the composition of the Knesset; the reservation of the right to submit a list of candidates exclusively to political parties; the date of elections, the publication of election results, and more.
The Knesset Election Law (Combined Version), 5729, 1969
The Knesset Election Law a central piece of legislation which determines the legal and organizational aspects of elections. The law states various provisions, among them provisions for determining the polling regions, voters' registry, selecting personnel for the ballot committees, and more.
A central issue which the law relegates is the creation of a Central Election Committee. This committee is responsible for the organizational aspects of the elections. Its role is to prepare the logistical infrastructure which is necessary in order to hold elections, and to deal with issues regarding voters and candidates – including publicizing the lists of voters and candidates, counting the votes and publicizing the election results. The Committee is comprised of representatives from the factions serving in the outgoing Knesset, chaired by a Supreme Court justice. The law also states that the Committee will have employees, who are legally considered civil servants, under the authority of the Committee Chairperson.
The Elections Law also determines provisions for special votes, such as people with disabilities, soldiers, police officers, prison wardens, prisoners, hospital inpatients and medical staff, diplomats and representatives of the country abroad, as well as representatives of specific Zionist Organizations outside of Israel, crew members of Israeli sea vessels and women residing in shelters. As these citizens are legally entitled to vote, but may be physically unable to do so at their local polling stations, the law makes special provisions to enable them vote elsewhere.
Knesset Election Law (Publicity Means), 5719, 1959
This law determines restrictions and limitations on election propaganda in the 90 days before the elections. These limitations apply to all forms of publications, including announcements and posters. The law forbids, for example, any form of advertising on television or radio in the 60 days before the elections, with the exception of the allotted times on public radio and television. These allotted advertising times are only in the 14 days immediately prior to the elections.
The law also states injunctions which are in effect at any time, not only during election time. A central prohibition is the ban on using any public property for party propaganda , at any time (Section 2a).
The Parties Law, 5752, 1991
The Parties Law defines a political party as "a unit of people who have united in order to push, in a legal manner, policies and social goals and to represent those goals with elected Members of Knesset." In order to found a political party, "one hundred or more people, who are adult citizens and residents of Israel," must register the party in the Party Registry, through the Party Registrar.
By law, any group in which any of the following are implied or explicitly seen in their goals or actions is forbidden from registering as a political party:
- Rejection of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state
- Incitement to racism
- Support of armed struggle against the State of Israel by enemy countries or terror organizations
- Reasonable basis to conclude that the party will serve as a cover for illegal actions
A political party has the status of a corporation, and must have a binding statute.
Every political party must have the following institutions:
- Central establishment
- A body which is responsible for all decision making of the party and administrative details
- All other institutions which the party statute describes
Political parties are forbidden from engaging in business activity. Additionally, they must keep proper financial records and reports.
The Political Party Funding Law, 5733, 1973
The Political Party Funding Law determines the means by which the National Treasury funds political parties. This funding enables the regular maintenance of the parties, as well as providing allocations for elections-related expenses during election periods. This law states that the Treasury will pay the salaries of Parliamentary aides to the parties, and allows parties to take loans form the Treasury under specific circumstances.
The law specifies criteria for receiving funding from the National Treasury, and limits other sources of funding for political parties. The laws specifies the conditions under which parties can received loans, and setts the limit on donations that people may contribute to parties as well as limits to what parties may receive. The law determines to whom one is allowed to donate. For example, anonymous donations are illegal, as are contributions from corporations.
Parties receive funding from the National Treasury according to the number of seats they have in the Knesset at the time.
Basic Law: The Government
The Basic Law: The Government is an administrative law. This basic law states that the government is the executive authority of the country, and the government serves in its role by virtue of the confidence of the Knesset in it.
The Basic Law: The Knesset details, in Section 5, the structure of the government and that the Prime Minister is to be a Knesset member. This means that the elections for Knesset include the election of the Prime Minister. This system was in place for most of the years of the State of Israel, with the exceptions of the 14th and 15th national elections, at which point the Basic Law: The Government had been changed to include separate, direct elections of the Prime Minister, in addition to electing political parties to serve as Knesset members. Following the 15th national elections, the Basic Law: The Government, was changed once again, and the provision that the Prime Minister is chosen from among the elected Knesset Members was reinstated.
The Basic Law: The Government determines that, after the Knesset elections results are publicized, the President takes counsel from all elected parties and factions, and, based upon their recommendations, the President charges the Knesset member - with the highest chance of creating a coalition - with the responsibility to assemble a government.
The majority of the sections of the Basic Law: The Government do not deal directly with elections, but rather with the issues involved in assembling a government , the government's functioning and ending a term of office.