Politics

Both, Germany and Israel are - after almost 60 years of existence - long established parliamentary democracies. The Reparations Agreement (Luxemburger Abkommen), which was concluded between the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Israel in 1952, paved the way for a rapprochement between both countries.

Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany is a federal parliamentary democracy. The Bundestag is the legislative body of the German political system. Its 598 Members are elected every four years. Parties need to attain at least 5% of the vote to be represented in the Bundestag, which excludes very small parties.

The Bundestag elects the Federal Chancellor and passes federal legislation together with the Bundesrat, which represents the German Länder (federal states). The government is headed by the Federal Chancellor. He or she decides on the number of ministries and their areas of responsibility, and chooses the ministers for each department. The Federal President is elected for a period of five years by the Bundesversammlung (Federal Assembly), which consists of an equal number of members from the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. As the head of state, he or she is responsible for representing the Federal Republic of Germany. The Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) is a characteristic institution of Germany’s democratic system. It has the right to annul democratically enacted laws if it reaches the conclusion that they are unconstitutional. Early Bundestag elections were called in the autumn of 2005, after the Red-Green Coalition government consisting of the SPD (the Social Democratic Party of Germany) and the Green Party had been in power for seven years. Since then, Germany has been governed by a Grand Coalition between the CDU/CSU (the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union) and the SPD, under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Horst Köhler (from the CDU) has been Germany’s President since 2004.

Israel

Israel is a parliamentary democracy. The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, consists of 120 members and is elected for a legislative period of four years according to the proportional representation system, with an election threshold of 2%.

The Israeli government is answerable to the Knesset. The prime minister is the head of government. Each government is in power for a term of four years, a period that can be cut short by the early retirement or death of the prime minister or by a vote of no confidence from the Knesset.

The judicial system is independent of the parliament and the government and consists of three levels: Magistrate Courts, District Courts and the Supreme Court. The latter has jurisdiction over the entire state and is also Israel’s highest court of appeal.

The President is elected by the Knesset for a non-renewable term of seven years. His or her role is largely ceremonial.

Since the last Knesset elections in 2006, Israel has been governed by a coalition consisting of the Kadima party, the Labour party, the Shas party, Israel Beytenu, and the pensioners’ party. Ehud Olmert is the Prime Minister. The Likud party and the National Religious Party are two of the opposition parties. Shimon Peres has been the President of the State of Israel since 2007.

Political relations between Germany and Israel

The Reparations Agreement (Luxemburger Abkommen), which was concluded between the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Israel in 1952, paved the way for a rapprochement between the two countries. Bilateral relations were initially limited to economic and scientific cooperation, but reached a high point with the initiation of diplomatic relations in 1965.

Fifty-six years later, relations between Israel and Germany are very diverse and include cooperation in the areas of politics – for example in the form of inter-party and interparliamentary relations – security, and culture. There are exchange programmes in many areas, including industry and trade, science, culture, youth, trade unions and sports. In addition, there are numerous twinnings between cities and towns in Israel and Germany.

In March 2008, as part of the first intergovernmental consultations, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israel’s head of government Ehud Olmert concluded a bilateral agreement on cooperation in various fields, including the military, the economy, the environment and culture. Another subject discussed at the consultations was the Federal Government’s intention to organize a Middle East Conference in Berlin this summer.