The president is, symbolically, the most important person in Israel, representing Israel's sovereignty as its head of state. However, unlike the President of the United States of America, Israel's president is not the head of the government: that job belongs to the prime minister (see Prime ministers of Israel), who is, in practice, the one running the show.
The details of the presidency are spelled out in the 1964 Basic Law: The President of the State, part of Israel's unwritten constitution. The president's duties include:
- Signing all laws passed by the Knesset
- Giving credentials to Israeli envoys, and accepting the credentials of foreign envoys
- Signing treaties
- Pardoning civilians and military personnel
- Receiving weekly reports from the government
- Appointing key civil positions, including:
Elections are held by the Knesset every seven years, and a president can serve up to two successive terms. Any Israeli resident national can become president. Candidates can be placed on the ballot up to ten days before the election: the only requirement is the approval of ten MKs. If no candidate wins a majority of 61 on the first ballot, a second vote is called for: after the second vote, the least popular candidate is removed from each subsequent runoff.
On the day that the outgoing president's tenure ends, the new president makes a Declaration of Allegiance: "I pledge myself to bear allegiance to the State of Israel and to its laws and faithfully to carry out my functions as President of the State."
The Knesset can remove the president with a three-fourths majority of the House Committee and a three-fourths majority of the entire house. If anything bad happens to the president, the Speaker of the Knesset takes over for him until new elections can be held.
The president lives in Jerusalem's Komemiut neighborhood, and has a website at http://www.president.gov.il/—his mailing address is 3 Hanassi St., 92188 Jerusalem.