From Bill Sutter’s Desk Mar/Apr 2009
Readers of Israel My Glory understand from Scripture that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people and the focal point of God’s plan for humanity. We also realize that the founding of the modern State of Israel on May 14, 1948, represents God acting on His promise to give a specific land to the Jewish people forever. Less understood, however, is how the institutions of the Jewish state actually work.
Israel is a democracy consisting of three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch, known as the Government, is led by the prime minister and the Cabinet of Ministers and is responsible for Israel’s domestic and foreign affairs, including all-important matters related to security. Recent prime ministers who have expressed insightful understanding and appreciation of Israel’s Christian friends have included Benjamin Netanyahu (1996–1999) and Ariel Sharon (2001–2006).
Israel is a nation of many political parties. Elections are national, and Israelis vote for a political party, rather than for individuals. Since no party has ever received a majority, every government has been composed of a coalition of several parties.
Israel’s single-chamber legislative branch, the Knesset, has 120 members who are seated from the parties’ slates of candidates. Israel’s Arab minorities also have elected representatives.
Knesset members, known as MKs, are scheduled to serve four years; but either they or the prime minister may dissolve the legislative body at any time. This is a unique process by which the government is said to have “fallen,” leading to new national elections.
Knesset history was made on January 5, 2004, when the Christian Allies Caucus was established “to build a direct line of communication, cooperation, and coordination between the Knesset and Christian leaders around the world.” Today 13 Knesset members from seven Jewish political parties sit on the Caucus.
According to Caucus Director Josh Reinstein, a frequent speaker on our “Up to Jerusalem” tours, “Many Christians recognize that their belief in the Bible connects them to the land and the people of Israel. On this basis, we work together to achieve our goals.” At our tour’s most recent visit to the Knesset, Caucus Chairman Benjamin (Benny) Elon took a recess from his usual legislative duties to greet us and express his appreciation for the love Christians show toward the Jewish people.
Israel’s third branch of government, the Judiciary, is composed of various types of courts. Judges are appointed on the recommendations of a Nominations Committee comprised of Supreme Court justices, members of the Bar, and public figures. The Judiciary’s independence is guaranteed by law. The Supreme Court has nationwide jurisdiction as the final court of appeal.
Israel also has a president who symbolizes the nation’s unity above political party politics. Accordingly, presidential duties are largely ceremonial. Israel’s current president, statesman Shimon Peres, was elected in 2007 by a majority of the Knesset to a single term of seven years.
The Israeli government is well represented in the United States. The ambassadorship to the United States is considered so important that this ambassador alone, out of Israel’s numerous ambassadors worldwide, reports directly to the prime minister.
Headquartered at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC, the ambassador and embassy staff represent the State of Israel to the people of the United States through a host of events, speaking engagements, academic initiatives, cultural opportunities, and business ventures. Under the leadership of its recent ambassadors, Daniel Ayalon (2002–2006) and Sallai Meridor (2006–present), the embassy has especially welcomed Christians into the life of Israel through monthly briefings and other special events, such as the annual Christian Solidarity With Israel Day to which The Friends of Israel brings many Christians.
Israel also strengthens its ties with local communities through a series of nine consulates throughout the United States. Friends of Israel staff and constituents have warm relations with many of these consulates, particularly the Consulate of Israel in Philadelphia, which serves the mid-Atlantic region where our international headquarters is located.
Recent consuls general in Philadelphia—including Giora Becher (2000–2004), Uriel Palti (2004–2008), and Daniel Kutner (2008–present)—have engaged The Friends of Israel in consulate briefings, programs with Israelis, and other activities that strengthen ties between Christians and the Jewish state.
The organization and vitality of Israel today clearly demonstrate how God keeps His promises.
Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers (Dt. 30:5).