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Comparative study of Lebanon and Israel

Comparative politics is a field of political science that involves the study and comparison of the politics of different countries, their administrative structures and systems as well as political processes that are practiced in the countries.

This paper seeks to address a comparative study between Lebanon and Israel by analyzing their political regimes, political institutions that is their nature of constitution, branches of government (Executive, Legislature and Judicial),Electoral system, system of recruitment (party system elections), civil society groups, society ethnic composition and national identity or conflict, political economy, foreign relations and current events.

Lebanon A small, mountainous country, that was under French mandate until independence in 1943. Its population is a mixture of Christian sects, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Druze and others, having been a refuge for the region’s persecuted minorities (Israel and Palestine, 2001” Political Science Resources 2001). Lebanon is derived from the Semitic word “laban”, which means “white,” the heavy snow in the mountains.

It is located on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea to the Southwest of Asia and in a coastal area, with 10,452 sq km; from North to South and it extends 217 km from East to West. The country borders Syria to both the North and the East and by Israel to the South. Beirut is Lebanon’s capital, a principal port and its largest city. Lebanon gained its independence, 22 November 1943 from League of Nations mandate under French administration (Lebanon Independence- Overview, 2001; Central Intelligence Agency). Lebanon’s Political system

A political system according to Friedrich, is “ when several parts that are distinct and different from each other compose a whole , bearing a defined functional relation to each other which establishes mutual dependence of these parts upon each other so that destruction of the one entails destruction of the whole,” . While David Easton holds the opinion that “ a political system is that system of inter-action in any society through which binding and authoritative allocations of value are made and implemented” (R. C. Acargwal pp 409).

Lebanon’s political system can be analyzed as follows: System of Government: Lebanon has a parliamentary system, which implements a special system confessionalism (a system that is intended to deter sectarian conflict and attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of the 18 recognized religious groups in government), mixture of Ottoman law, canon law, Napoleonic code, and civil law; the constitutional court reviews laws only after they have been passed and has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction 2100.

High-ranking offices are reserved for members of specific religious groups for example the President has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister of a Sunni and the speaker of the National Assembly a Shia. (Held, Colbert C. 2008). Arms of government ;Legislature: Lebanon’s national legislature is unicameral, a system of government having or consisting of a single legislative chamber. Its 128 seats are divided equally between Christians and Muslims, proportionately between the 18 different denominations and proportionately between its 26 regions.

(Held, Colbert C. 2008). Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taifa accord, which put an end to the 1975–1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions. ( Lebanon Constitution- overview,2001;central intelligence agency). The Parliament is elected for a four-year term by universal suffrage. The Executive; the head of state is the president, a Maronite Christian, elected by parliament for a single six-year term.

The head of government is the Prime Minister, a Sunni Muslim, who is appointed by the president in consultation with the Shia Muslim speaker of parliament and the prime minister selects cabinet members in consultation with parliament. Judiciary; The judicial system is based on the French Napoleonic Code and uses no juries. The secular (non-religious) court system has three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation (final appeal). The Ministry of Justice appoints judges according to confessional ratios.

In addition to the secular courts, various religious tribunals have exclusive jurisdiction over some personal matters such as marriage and divorce. Political parties; There are nearly 50 voting groups (or “lists”) that have traditionally been organized along sectarian lines. Typically, an acknowledged zaim or other distinguished leader heads each list. Established parties, which correspond to varying sets of lists, include the National Bloc (Maronite), Kataib (militant Maronite), Progressive Socialist Party (Druze), and Syrian Nationalist Party.

Hezbollah operates both as a political party and as an armed guerrilla group. Voting lists (a form of political grouping in which a slate of candidates runs for office) are organized mainly along confessional lines, and each list is usually headed by a traditional zaim (semi feudal leader). Women aged 21 and older may vote if they have an elementary education, and all men at least aged 21 may vote (Held, Colbert C. , 2008). Social organization: Population, About 93 percent of the population is within the Arab ethno-linguistic group.

Like many such groups, Lebanese Arabs have a diverse ancestry—genetic testing indicates that many carry specific genes of the ancient Canaanites and Phoenicians. About 5 percent of the population is Armenian, and the remaining 2 percent of the population belongs to Kurdish, Assyrian, or other ethnicities. Arabic is the official language, but French is commonly used, especially in government and among the upper class. English is also widely used, particularly as the language of business and education.

Most Armenians speak Armenian. Religion: The government policy of confessionalism, or the grouping of people by religion, plays a critical role in Lebanon’s political and social life and has given rise to Lebanon’s most persistent and bitter conflicts Every person’s religion is encoded on a required, government-issued identification card. The government recognizes 17 distinct religious sects: 5 Muslim (Shia, Sunni, Druze, Ismailite, and Alawite), 11 Christian (4 Orthodox, 6 Catholic, and 1 Protestant), and Judaism.

Education; Primary education in Lebanon is free and compulsory for five years; school attendance is near universal for primary school-aged children. Beirut is home to six universities: the well-known American University of Beirut; the Jesuit-sponsored Saint Joseph University; the government-supported Lebanese University; the Egyptian-sponsored Beirut Arab University; the Lebanese American University; and the Armenian Hagazian College. Lebanon also has more than 100 technical, vocational, and other specialized schools. (Held, Colbert C. 2008).

Political Economy: Lebanon has a free-market economy and a strong laisshez-faire commercial tradition. The government does not restrict foreign investment; however, the investment climate suffers from red tape, corruption, arbitrary licensing decisions, high taxes, tariffs, and fees, archaic legislation, and weak intellectual property rights. The Lebanese economy is service-oriented; main growth sectors include banking and tourism. (Lebanon Economy- overview,2001). Israel The name Israel is derived from the Old Testament and it meant the “one who struggled with God” and was given to Jacob.

Israel is country in southwestern Asia, formed in 1948 as a Jewish state in the historic region of Palestine, and located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel is bounded on the north by Lebanon, on the Northeast by Syria, on the East by Jordan, and on the southwest by Egypt. Its capital city is Jerusalem and it gained independence from Britain where it was considered as a British mandate of the Palestine. System of government: Israel is characterized by a multiparty parliamentary republic with ultimate authority vested by the people in the legislature (Knesset).

It has no written constitution, but a number of basic laws passed by the parliament over the decades determine government operations and activities. Israel has a unitary, or non-federalist, system of government with the central government in Jerusalem, it capital city, that runs most government functions. Arms of government: Executive; The Knesset elects a president, who is the head of state and serves a maximum of two five-year terms. The president holds little real power but performs such ceremonial functions as opening the first session of a new Knesset and receiving foreign diplomatic representatives.

The president selects the leader of the largest party in the Knesset to become the prime minister, or head of government. At the start of a new term the prime minister forms a cabinet of ministers (known as the government) with as many as 18 members, at least half of whom must be from the Knesset. As the chief executive officer, the prime minister determines the agenda of cabinet meetings and has the final word in policy decisions. The establishment of a new government requires a vote of confidence from the Knesset.

Because no party has ever held an absolute majority of Knesset seats, Israel’s governments have always been coalitions of several political parties. Compromises on policies and positions are central to coalition bargaining. The prime minister and the government may be ousted by a majority vote of no confidence in the parliament. The government’s four-year term may also be shortened by its own resignation, by the Knesset’s decision to dissolve itself and call for new elections, or by the resignation or death of the prime minister.

The legislature (Knesset) is a single-chambered body of 120 members serving a term of four years. As the supreme authority in the state, the Knesset’s main functions include votes of confidence or no confidence in the government, legislation, participation in formulating national policy, approval of budgets and taxes, election of the president, and general supervision of the administration’s activities. The cabinet presents most legislation, although Knesset committees and individual members can initiate bills.

Passage of any legislation requires a simple majority of the members present at the vote. An absolute majority is required for the election of the president and for changes in the system of proportional representation and the Basic Laws. All Israeli citizens 18 or older may vote. Elections are nationwide with the entire country as a single constituency. Citizens vote not for individual candidates but for political parties, which prepare ranked lists of their candidates. Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total vote; parties must receive at least 1.

5 percent to gain a seat. The Knesset may dissolve itself and call for new elections before completion of its term (World Facts book, 2001; Central Intelligence Agency). The judiciary system consists of both secular and religious courts. The president upon the recommendation of a nominations committee composed of Supreme Court justices, practicing lawyers, and members of the Knesset and cabinet appoints judges for both types of courts. Judges hold office until death, resignation, mandatory retirement at age 70, or mandatory removal for violations of the law.

As the highest court, the Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts in civil and criminal cases. It also serves as the primary guardian of fundamental rights of Israeli citizens and protects individuals from arbitrary actions by public officials. The Supreme Court cannot invalidate Knesset legislation, but it may nullify administrative actions and ordinances it regards as contrary to Knesset legislation. Below the Supreme Court are district courts and numerous municipal and magistrate courts.

Military courts hear matters involving military establishment and personnel; the highest of these courts is the Military Court of Appeal, which is responsible to the Supreme Court. Religious courts have jurisdiction over personal status matters such as marriage, divorce, adoption, alimony, guardianship, and inheritance. The High Rabbinical Court of Appeal is the highest Jewish religious court and is overseen by the Ashkenazic and Sephardic chief rabbis. Various Christian denominations, Druze, and Muslim sects operate separate religious courts that handle similar matters.

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