Israeli Lawmaker Proposes Nixing the Presidency

The post is ceremonial, costly and interferes in decision-making, says Habayit Hayehudi MK Zvulun Kalfa.

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An Israeli lawmaker has proposed legislation that would do away with the role of president.

The duties of the president are largely ceremonial and symbolic, said MK Zvulun Kalfa (Habayit Hayehudi), who proposed the bill. Kalfa added that the president's responsibilities could be handled by the Foreign Ministry or the Knesset speaker.

Kalfa, who sits on the Knesset Finance Committee, also pointed out that the post is expensive for the state to maintain. In 2012, it cost some 62 million shekels or $17.6 million, and its budget has increased threefold in the past decade.

"In recent years, a situation has emerged in which a quasi-fourth authority has given itself the freedom to intervene in the realm of the executive branch, causing damage on occasion and applying external pressure on decision-makers," the bill's explanatory notes explain.

"The presidency is a decorative, unnecessary and wasteful role whose duties can be delegated to other authorities," Kalfa said. "There is a parliament and government that were elected by the public, and there is no reason for a fourth authority to intervene in their powers."

As a member of the finance committee, Kalfa said, "I am certain that doing away with the institution will save tens of millions of shekels per year, which we will be able to channel toward helping disadvantaged populations."

Israel's current president, Shimon Peres, announced late last year that he will step down in June, after seven years in the post.

Several contenders have set their sights on replacing him, including former Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, former Defense Minister and Labor Party leader Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Nobel laureate Dan Schectman.

Shimon PeresCredit: AP
Zvulun KalfaCredit: Ilan Assayag