Tel Aviv is governed by a 31-member city council which is elected every fours years. All Israeli citizens over the age of 18 who have been a Tel Aviv resident for at least a year are eligible to vote in municipal elections. The municipality is responsible for social services, community programmes, public infrastructure, urban planning, tourism and local affairs. Tel Aviv City Hall is located at Rabin Square. Ron Huldai has been the mayor of Tel Aviv since 1998. The international community does not recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital so most embassies are in Tel Aviv. The Israeli Ministry of Defence is also located in Tel Aviv.
The Labour Party always tended to be strongest in the north of Tel Aviv, and Likud and other right-wing and religious parties were usually strongest in the south. In the 2006 election however this pattern changed when the new centrist Kadima party gained the majority.
The State of Israel has no formal constitution. Religious Jews at the time of Israel’s creation were opposed the idea of having a document which would have a higher authority than the religious laws of the Torah, Tanakh, Talmud, and Shulkhan Arukh. Israel is a democratic republic with the Prime Minister acting as the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government, Legislative power wielded by the parliament called the Knesset. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The political system of the State of Israel and its main principles are set out in 11 Basic Laws. The Israeli electoral system, inherited from the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement organization at the time of the British Mandate), makes it very difficult for any party to gain a working majority in the Knesset and thus the government is generally formed of a coalition. The Knesset's 120 members are elected by secret ballot to 4-year terms using a system of proportional representation. Suffrage is universal among Israeli citizens aged 18 years and older, but voting is not obligatory. In an attempt at electoral reform in the May 1996 elections Israelis voted for the prime minister directly, but direct election has since been repealed and the former system re-established.
The Israeli judicial system consists of Magistrate Courts, which serve as the courts of first instance, District Courts, which are appeal courts but also function as courts of first instance in some cases, and the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. In December 1985 Israel withdrew its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the UN International Court of Justice. Some issues of family law (marriage and divorce in particular) and matters concerning the Jewish status of immigrants may fall under the jurisdiction of religious courts, which are financed and maintained by the state.
Any visitor to Israel will be struck by the huge military presence. Military service is obligatory and armed young soldiers – both men and women – can be seen everywhere in Tel Aviv: in the street, on buses, in shops and cafés.
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