Matthew S. Shugart
The electoral system of Israel is an “extreme” example of proportional representation because of its use of a single nationwide district. This feature has been a constant since 1949, while secondary features, such as legal thresholds and the proportional seat-allocation formula, have changed and had an impact on degrees of proportionality. The party system is highly fragmented, as expected in extreme proportional systems. By applying the Seat Product Model to indices of election outcomes, it is possible to determine whether Israel’s system is more or less fragmented and proportional than expected for its institutional design. This chapter reports that the long-term average outputs are about as expected, but they have fluctuated over time. Some of these fluctuations reflect changes in the secondary features of the system, while others are the results of political factors independent of the institutions.
As in other parliamentary democracies, the Israeli government is dependent on the confidence of parliament. Israel is a country with a diverse society, divided by multidimensional political issues and using a proportional representation electoral system. It is therefore not surprising to find a multiparty system with a highly fragmented parliament. This setting produces the central institutional feature of its executive branch: coalition politics. This chapter outlines the process of cabinet formation and the types of coalitions formed, presents an overview of the position of the prime minister, describes the work and structure of cabinet ministers and ministries, explains why governments seldom complete a full term, and assesses claims about both instability and nongovernability in Israel.
Tobias Berger and Milli Lake
This chapter examines the promotion of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy by external actors in areas of limited statehood. It begins with the definition of key terms and a brief overview of the historical trajectory in which contemporary interventions by external actors unfold. We then discuss cross-cutting issues and introduce the key actors involved in the promotion of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. Analysing each of these issue areas in turn, we make three overarching arguments. Firstly, we highlight the multiplicity of outcomes that result from external interventions, whose impacts prove highly unevenly and spatially dispersed. Secondly, we emphasize the crucial influence of local actors and pre-existing institutions in shaping the outcomes of any governance intervention. Finally, we note that external actors have tended to rely on state-centric conceptualizations of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.
Menachem Hofnung and Mohammed S. Wattad
The contemporary perception of Israel’s judiciary as an independent branch does not coincide with Israel’s first government’s perception after establishing the first Supreme Court. To a great extent the executive branch deemed the court its long arm. Until the mid-1950s judges were appointed by the government, and questions of conflicts of interest and political affiliation—in the wide sense of the term—were not compelling. However, since the 1990s the court’s power of judicial review and the legitimacy of its decisions have become issues of heated public debate. Consequently, the process of appointing justices to the court has become subject to very strict public and political scrutiny. This chapter asks whether the Israeli judiciary truly constitutes a third independent branch of government. This is relevant considering the continuous attempts to change the existing balance of power, aiming to limit the court’s capacity to apply universal judicial doctrines and legal standards to executive and legislative decisions.
Kevin T. McGuire
This article considers several issues that are related to the judicial process. It aims to shed some light on the policy capacities that the courts possess, as well as the impact of their decisions. The chapter focuses on the conditions that must be met in order for the courts to make effective policy. It describes how several of the basic features of the judicial process actually undermine the realization of those conditions. The discussion draws on several different strands of research that underscore different problems that are common to judges serving as policy-makers.
Patricia E. Salkin and Amy Lavine
This article describes the judiciary and judicial reform in New York. Reform has been ongoing, and in recent years the courts in New York have evolved into a unified system to manage better, among other things, the volume of cases, physical infrastructure, and human resources. The administrative board plays a mostly advisory role; many of the chief judge's responsibilities have in practice been delegated to the chief administrator. The court of appeals is responsible for appointing the state board of law examiners and establishing regulations for the admission of attorneys to practice law in the State of New York. The court of appeals has also become embroiled in nonfiscal issues that have major political dimensions and are arguably better resolved through the legislative process.
Mathew D. McCubbins and Daniel B. Rodriguez
This article discusses the judiciary and the role of law. It talks about the implications of the approach for issues in statutory interpretation, and then examines the relationship between the legal and political controls of bureaucracy. The last section in the article focuses on the implications for judicial independence within the larger separation-of-powers system. The emerging literature on Positive Political Theory (PPT) further stresses the political nature of legal decision-making and the dynamic relationship among the legislative, judicial, and executive branches.
Since May 1999, the Nigerian judiciary has increasingly been called upon to play a more critical role in interpreting the constitution, ensuring the enforcement of the rule of law and the protection of civil liberties. During this period, Nigerian society has also been confronting serious problems concerning ethnic tensions, endemic corruption, and a weak and oil-dependent economy. The judiciary itself has had to contend with serious problems of its own, including corruption amongst some of its judges. This chapter examines how the judiciary, even while dealing with serious challenges of its own, has been able to play an important role in resolving the disputes within Nigeria’s unfolding democratic experience.
José E. Alvarez
This chapter surveys how international legal scholars have catalogued and sought to explain the legal impact of the UN even though its political and judicial organs have not been delegated the power to make law. It explains how the UN attempts to adhere to, but also challenges, the traditional sources of international law—treaties, custom, and general principles—contained in the Statute of the International Court of Justice. It enumerates how the turn to UN system organizations—amidst newly empowered non-state actors, increasing resort to ‘soft’ or ‘informal’ norms, and recourse to institutionalized processes—have led to distinct legal frameworks such as process or deliberative theories, interdisciplinary ‘law and’ approaches, feminist and ‘Third World’ critiques, and scholarly work that renews attention to or revises legal positivism.
Chen Friedberg and Reuven Y. Hazan
The Knesset is the legislative body of Israel, which has been a parliamentary, unitary democracy since its foundation. It is a unicameral parliament, elected through a proportional election system that to a great extent reflects Israeli society. Because there is no written constitution, the Knesset alone delineates the three branches of government. On top of its legislative role, the Knesset also oversees the executive branch, handles political conflicts, and is in charge of decision-making. Although it is the main source of all political power in Israel and appears strong on paper, it operates under structural, legal, procedural, and historical constraints. The result is a relatively weak legislative branch in practice, in some roles more so than in others.
Daniel L. Feldman
This article explores the fascinating and varied tools with which the New York State attorney general exercises power over lives and property. The New York State attorney general has become a major player in the national economy, and the office a steppingstone to the governorship. It is noted that law and tradition generally give the attorney general sufficient independence to exercise judgment in any given matter as to whether the responsibility to represent the public interest prevails over the responsibility to represent the attorney general's “other” client, the state, or the state agency being sued. New York State attorneys general have employed creativity, ambition, and intelligence to realize the full potential of their office to do good, a potential that developed over history and in response to the evolving social, economic, and political complexity of American society.
Reuven Y. Hazan
Both the parties and the party system of Israel have undergone significant changes during the last seventy years. This chapter begins by delineating the transformation of the political parties in Israel, from classic mass parties to a plethora of types that coexist somewhat uneasily, and from parties focused on domestic socioeconomic issues to ones dominated by foreign policy and security concerns. It then shifts to its main focus, assessing the changes in the party system. The chapter argues two points: first, that while the Israeli parties were extremely volatile, the party blocs were surprisingly stable; and second, that while the Israeli party system exhibited two very stable periods during the first fifty years—albeit with a short, transformative interim phase—during the last twenty-five years it has exhibited accelerated change and instability.
Israel has experienced both failed and successful attempts to reform its democratic institutions in the seventy years since its founding. The most noteworthy failure has been in the promotion of much-needed electoral reform that would moderate the “extreme” features of the hyper-representative, party-centered electoral system. Successes range from small modifications of the electoral system to wide-ranging reforms of the government system at the local and national levels and within political parties. These reforms injected doses of majoritarianism and personalism into the system. But they did not help to solve the problems in the functioning of the Israeli regime; in fact, they often made them worse.