Who’s Who in Israel’s new Government
Jan 6, 2023 | Ahron Shapiro
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.
32 seats in 2022 elections, 18 ministers
Binyamin Netanyahu, 73, who served as prime minister previously from 1996-1999 and 2009-2021, returns to lead the country.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11 seats in 2022 elections, 5 ministers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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).
7 factional seats in 2022 elections, 3 ministers
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
1 factional seat in election, 1 deputy minister
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.
- 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.
- In three government portfolios – Defence, Education and Welfare – there will be junior and senior Ministers serving simultaneously.