The nasi (president) bears the ancient title of the head of the Sanhedrin, the supreme legislative and judicial body of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel in ancient times. The president is the head of state, with the presidency symbolizing the nation's unity, above and beyond party politics.
The president is elected by a simple majority of the Knesset from among candidates nominated on the basis of their personal stature and lifelong contribution to the state. Revised legislation (1998) provides for the election of the president for a single term of seven years.
Presidential duties, which are mostly ceremonial and formal, are defined by law. They include opening the first session of a new Knesset; directing a member of Knesset to form a new government; accepting the credentials of foreign envoys; signing treaties and laws adopted by the Knesset; appointing, on recommendation of appropriate bodies, the heads of Israel’s diplomatic missions abroad, judges, and the governor of the Bank of Israel; and pardoning prisoners, on advice of the minister of justice. In addition, the president performs public functions and informal tasks such as hearing citizens' appeals, lending prestige to community organizations and strengthening campaigns to improve the quality of life in the society at large.