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Who’s Who in Israel’s new Government

Jan 6, 2023 | Ahron Shapiro

Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu (right) convenes his new cabinet. (Credit: PMO)
Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu (right) convenes his new cabinet. (Credit: PMO)

Israel’s 37th government was sworn in on Dec. 29, after an election on Nov. 1 which saw a narrow victory for right-leaning and ultra-Orthodox parties, which was then followed by more than six weeks of coalition negotiations.

The new 64-seat majority government appears to bring to an end a period of political instability in Israel since late 2019, in which there were four previous elections in which no bloc of parties was able to form a stable majority.

Here is AIJAC’s guide to the ministers and other major players in the new government, listing the coalition parties and the ministries each one now holds.

 

Full Ministries 

LIKUD

32 seats in 2022 elections, 18 ministers

Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister

Binyamin Netanyahu, 73, who served as prime minister previously from 1996-1999 and 2009-2021, returns to lead the country.

Yoav Gallant
Minister of Defence

Gallant, 64, rose to the rank of Major General in the IDF and in 2011, was initially selected to be IDF Chief of Staff, but was replaced before taking the post because of a minor scandal over unauthorised construction on his land holdings in northern Israel. He entered the Knesset in 2015 with the Likud-breakaway party Kulanu, and followed his party leadership back into the Likud in 2019.

Eli Cohen
Minister of Foreign Affairs*

Like Gallant, Eli Cohen, 50, began his Knesset career in 2015 with the Likud-breakaway party Kulanu, re-absorbed into the Likud in 2019. An accountant and university lecturer earlier in his career, Cohen has previously served as Minister of the Economy & Industry and Minister of Intelligence.

Yariv Levin
Justice Minister

Levin, 53, is a lawyer and politician who has served in the Knesset for the Likud since 2009. He has previously held the posts of Minister of Internal Security, Minister of Tourism, and Minister of Aliyah and Integration, as well as Knesset Speaker.

Nir Barkat
Minister of the Economy

Barkat, 63, is a successful entrepreneur with a reported net worth of over US$100 million (A$146m) and former mayor of Jerusalem. He has served as a Likud MK since 2019. This is Barkat’s first ministerial posting.

Yoav Kisch
Minister of Education
Minister of Regional Cooperation

Kisch, 54, served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After his discharge from the military, he was involved in entrepreneurial efforts in the private sector, establishing start-up companies in a variety of fields. After that, he flew Boeing 777s for El Al, until he joined politics.

Avi Dichter
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Dichter, 70, is a former head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency. He first entered the Knesset in 2006 with the Kadima party, left the Knesset in 2012 and returned in 2015 as a member of the Likud. He has previously served as Minister of Internal Security and Minister of Home Front Defence.

Israel Katz
Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water  

Katz, 67, is a long-serving Likud MK, having first entered the Knesset in 1998. Over the years, he has previously held the posts of: Minister of Agriculture; Transport; Intelligence; Foreign Affairs and Finance.

Shlomo Karhi
Minister of Communications

Karhi, 40, has been a Likud MK since 2019, when he received a spot on the Likud slate reserved for a resident of the Negev. Raised on a religious moshav, Karhi holds a Phd in industrial engineering and management. This is Karhi’s first ministerial posting.

Miki Zohar
Minister of Culture and Sport

Zohar, 42, has been a Likud MK since 2015, before which he served as Deputy Mayor of Kiryat Gat, in Israel’s south. This is Zohar’s first ministerial posting.

Gila Gamliel
Minister of Intelligence  

Gamliel, 48, has spent her political career in the Likud over two Knesset stints, from 2003-2006 and from 2009 until today. She has previously served as Minister for Social Equality and Minister of Environmental Protection.

Ofir Akunis
Minister of Science and Technology

Akunis, 49, first entered the Knesset in 2009 and has previously served as Minister without Portfolio; Minister of Science & Technology; Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services; and Minister for Regional Cooperation. Before entering politics, Akunis worked in media and public relations.

Miri Regev
Minister of Transportation

Regev, 57, was in the IDF Spokesperson’s Office before entering politics. She has served as a Likud MK since 2009, and is returning to the Transportation Ministry after holding the post from 2020-2021. Previously, Regev had served as Minister of Culture and Sport.

Haim Katz
Minister of Tourism         

Katz, 75, began his Knesset career in 1999 with the “One Nation” party, a breakaway from Labor. In 2003, he switched to the Likud. He held the post of Minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Services from 2015-2019.

Amichai Chikli
Minister of Diaspora Affairs

Minister for Social Equality

Chikli, 41, was first elected to the Knesset in 2021 on the Yamina list, but refused to follow the rest of the party into the unity government led by party leader Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid. His opposition to the unity government is assumed to account for his being rewarded with two ministries with his current party Likud’s government, despite his status as a relative political newcomer.

Idit Silman
Minister for Environmental Protection

Silman, 42, was first elected to Knesset in 2019 with the Union of Right-Wing Parties and returned in 2021 with the Yamina party. In 2022, she bolted the Bennett-Lapid government, which is seen as a major factor in that government’s downfall. She was given a reserved spot on the Likud list in the November 2022 election. This is Silman’s first ministerial role.

Galit Distel-Atbaryan
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office

Distel-Atbaryan, 51, first entered the Knesset with the Likud in 2021. She had previously been a prolific right-wing commentator in the media. Her ministerial duties are yet to be properly defined.

Ron Dermer
Minister of Strategic Affairs

Dermer, 51, served as the Israeli Ambassador to the US from 2013-2021 and is the only Likud minister to be selected from outside the party’s election slate.

Amir Ohana
Knesset Speaker

Ohana, 46, became the first openly gay person to serve as Speaker of the Knesset. A lawyer, he became a Likud MK in 2015 and later served as Minister of Justice and Minister of Public Security.

 

SHAS

11 seats in 2022 elections, 5 ministers

Aryeh Deri
Minister of Health*
Minister of the Interior and Periphery*

Deri, 61, has spent his career in the Knesset with the Shas party. He holds the distinction of having been the youngest minister in Israel’s history, having been given the Minister of Internal Affairs portfolio in Yitzhak Shamir’s government in 1988 when he was 29, even though he was not yet a Knesset member. He was voted into the Knesset with Shas in 1992, and has held numerous portfolios: Minister without Portfolio; Internal Affairs; Economy; Development of the Negev and Galilee; Interior; and Religious Services. His Knesset service has not been contiguous, owing largely to criminal convictions over tax violations, including a plea bargain last year. His current return to head government ministries required a unique law to be passed that is currently under judicial review.

Ya’akov Margi
Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services*

Margi, 62, has been a Knesset member for Shas since 2003. He has previously served as Minister of Religious Services. Before entering national politics, he was the chairman of the local religious council in Beersheba.

Yoav Ben-Tzur
Minister in the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services*

Ben-Tzur, 64, has been a Shas MK since 2014, except for a short break between parts of 2020 and 2021. This is his first ministerial appointment.

Michael Malchieli
Minister of Religious Affairs

Malchieli, 40, has been a Shas MK since 2016. This will be his first time holding a ministerial portfolio for the party.

Haim Biton
Minister in the Education Ministry

Biton, 44, has been a Shas MK since 2021 and has previously been CEO of the party. This is his first ministerial posting.

 

UNITED TORAH JUDAISM

(7 seats in 2022 elections, 2 ministers)

Yitzhak Goldknopf
Minister of Housing and Construction
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office

Goldknopf, 72, is a former Jerusalem city councilman and CEO of the Beit Yaakov and Beit Petahia religious kindergartens. He has no prior Knesset or ministerial experience and replaced scandal-plagued Yaakov Litzman last year as party head la by virtue of assuming the leadership of the Agudat Yisrael faction of the party.

Meir Porush
Minister Without Portfolio

Porush, 67, is a long-time UTJ MK, having first entered the Knesset in 1996. His time in the Knesset has not been entirely contiguous, however, due to rotation agreements within the party. He has previously held deputy ministries in Housing and Construction and later, Education (three times).

 

RELIGIOUS ZIONISM

7 factional seats in 2022 elections, 3 ministers

Bezalel Smotrich
Minister of Finance*
Minister in the Defense Ministry

Smotrich, 42, began his Knesset service in 2015, and has remained in the Knesset as a journeyman through partnerships in various right-wing parties since that time. A split within the Yamina party in 2021 led to Smotrich leading his own party into opposition, where it  became the flag-bearer for the national religious camp that opposed Bennett’s participation in the unity government with Lapid. He has previously served as Minister of Transport.

Ofir Sofer
Minister of Aliyah and Integration

Sofer, 47, entered the Knesset in 2019 and has served since in a variety of right-wing parties through the five elections since that time. This is his first ministerial position.

Orit Strook
Minister of National Missions

Strook, 62, began her Knesset service in 2013. She left the Knesset in 2015, only to return once more in 2021, with her current party. This is her first ministerial post, which is expected to have particular influence over matters regarding Israel’s West Bank settlements.

 

OTZMA YEHUDIT  (“Jewish Power”)

6 factional seats in 2022 elections, 3 ministers

Itamar Ben-Gvir
Minister of National Security

Ben Gvir, 46, first entered the Knesset in 2021 in a strategic partnership with Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party. As a result of successful coalition negotiations, Ben-Gvir’s ministerial role – his first – gives him expanded control over Israel’s police and border police compared to the powers that were available to previous Israeli ministers in this portfolio. Ben-Gvir has reportedly been criminally indicted over 50 times over the years for various offences stemming from his far-right activism – including a conviction for incitement to racism. His constant brushes with the law reportedly led to his decision to study law and eventually become a successful lawyer, with a practice largely focussed on defending far-right-wing activists facing criminal charges.

Yitzhak Wasserlauf
Minister for the Development of the Negev, Galilee, and National Resilience

Wasserlauf, 30, has a background in far-right politics and also as an activist educator in a yeshiva in South Tel Aviv. This has been his first time elected to the Knesset, as well as his first ministerial posting.

Amihai Eliyahu
Minister of Heritage

Eliyahu, 43, is a grandson of Mordechai Eliyahu, a former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. Like his colleague Wasserlauf, this has been his first election to the Knesset, and his first ministerial posting.

 

Coalition partner without full ministry

NOAM

1 factional seat in election, 1 deputy minister

Avi Maoz
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office

Maoz, 66, started his career in Natan Sharansky’s immigrant-focused party Yisrael B’Aliyah, where he developed a reputation as a highly efficient bureaucrat in the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Housing. He became extreme in some of his views in later years and formed the anti-LGBTQ Noam party in 2019. This is Maoz’s first time elected to the Knesset and also his first time holding the powers of a deputy minister. His deputy ministry is slated to have influence over state-funded, supplemental education programs from outside organisations.

 

Rotations in the Coalition agreements (signified above by asterisks) 

According to the coalition agreements, after two years, Deri will be appointed Finance Minister and Smotrich will become Interior Minister; A Likud minister will replace Deri in the Health Ministry, Margi will become a Minister in the Welfare Ministry and Bentzur Welfare Minister. Furthermore, after a year, Eli Cohen and Yisrael Katz will exchange portfolios, and then exchange again after two additional years.

Additional Notes:

  1. While there are other deputy ministries distributed as part of the coalition agreements, only Noam is included here in the interests of brevity, since it represents the party’s only sphere of influence as part of its coalition agreement.
  2. In three government portfolios – Defence, Education and Welfare – there will be junior and senior Ministers serving simultaneously.

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