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Who's who, who's new

Reform rabbi, Kahanist agitator, firebrand writer: The new Knesset’s 16 rookies

Lawmakers from no fewer than 13 different parties have made it into the 24th parliament. This is who the 120 are, with a focus on the fresh faces

(New faces in the 24th Knesset, from top left) Religious Zionism's Itamar Ben Gvir, Avi Maoz, Simcha Rothman and Michal Waldiger; Yamina's Amichai Chikli, Alon Davidi, Nir Orbach and Abir Kara; Likud's Galit Distal; Yesh Atid's Ron Katz and Nira Shafek; Labor's Efrat Raitman, Gilad Kariv, Emilie Moatti and Ibtisam Mara’ana; and Meretz's Renawi Zoabi (Photo credits: Flash90 / Courtesy)
(New faces in the 24th Knesset, from top left) Religious Zionism's Itamar Ben Gvir, Avi Maoz, Simcha Rothman and Michal Waldiger; Yamina's Amichai Chikli, Alon Davidi, Nir Orbach and Abir Kara; Likud's Galit Distal; Yesh Atid's Ron Katz and Nira Shafek; Labor's Efrat Raitman, Gilad Kariv, Emilie Moatti and Ibtisam Mara’ana; and Meretz's Renawi Zoabi (Photo credits: Flash90 / Courtesy)

With the complete results from Tuesday’s election announced on Thursday night after two days of tense vote counting, we now finally know how many seats each party will have in the 24th Knesset, and the identities of the 120 people who will fill them.

According to the results, which will be presented to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 seats, followed by Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid with 17. The ultra-Orthodox Shas finished as the third-largest party, with 9 seats; Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party gained 8; Yamina, Labor, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Byetenu all had 7 seats; with Joint List, Religious Zionism, New Hope and Meretz all on 6; and the conservative Islamist Ra’am party on four.

A total of 37 parties ran in the election — the most ever, apart from the April 2019 election, which had 39 — and the electorate gave seats to a dizzying 13 of them. That’s five more than the outgoing 23rd Knesset, which had the lowest number of parties in Israeli history, but short of the 15 elected in 1999 to the most thinly spread parliament ever.

After the April 2019 election, an all-time high of 49 new MKs were sworn in, overtaking the 48 fresh faces elected in 2013, and making it the most rookie Knesset since Israel’s first-ever elections, which saw, somewhat obviously, 120 new lawmakers elected. In the two subsequent elections, however, just a handful of rookies entered each time, with most parties opting to keep their slates similar if not the same for the repeat votes.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz takes a selfie with his colleagues during the swearing-in ceremony for the 21st Knesset, April 30, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The 24th Knesset will see 16 new faces — from across the political spectrum, but certainly not from all of the parties: none of the freshman lawmakers hail from Yisrael Beytenu, United Torah Judaism, New Hope, Joint List or Ra’am.

Of the new MKs, four come from each of the Labor, Yamina and Religious Zionism parties, three from Yesh Atid, and one each from Likud, Blue and White and Meretz. Additionally, there are five former MKs who are returning to the Knesset after a hiatus.

In total, 30 women were elected, the same as the record high set by the outgoing 23rd Knesset. (The total number of women who served in the 20th Knesset eventually swelled to 36, after seven female lawmakers entered parliament as replacements during its four-year life.)

Following is a complete list of all of the MKs in the incoming Knesset, with brief bios of the newcomers.

Likud

1. Benjamin Netanyahu
2. Yuli Edelstein
3. Yisrael Katz
4. Miri Regev
5. Yariv Levin
6. Yoav Gallant
7. Nir Barkat
8. Gila Gamliel
9. Avi Dichter
10. Galit Distal Atbaryan

Israeli author and media personality Galit Distal Atbaryan. (CC BY-SA 4.0 Galit Distel Atbaryan/Wikimedia)

Netanyahu placed the firebrand right-wing media personality and novelist at 10th place on the Likud’s slate, the highest spot he had the authority to choose. Distal Atbaryan, 50, gained fame in Israel for two critically acclaimed novels released in 2009 and 2014. Since then, she has made a name for herself as a blunt and often controversial right-wing political commentator with a penchant for unequivocally backing Netanyahu. As one of the prime minister’s most outspoken backers, she has alleged that the criminal charges he faces are a “judicial coup” aimed at bringing down Israel’s right-wing rule.

11. Haim Katz
12. Eli Cohen
13. Tzachi Hanegbi
14. Ofir Akunis
15. Yuval Steinitz
16. David Amsalem
17. Gadi Yevarkan
18. Amir Ohana
19. Ofir Katz
20. Etti Atia
21. Yoav Kisch
22. David Bitan
23. Keren Barak
24. Shlomo Karhi
25. Miki Zohar
26. Orly Levy-Abekasis
27. Kati Shitrit
28. Ofir Sofer
29. Petin Mulla
30. May Golan

Yesh Atid

1. Yair Lapid
2. Orna Barbivai
3. Meir Cohen
4. Karin Elharar
5. Meirav Cohen
6. Yoel Rozbozov
7. Elazar Stern
8. Miki Levy
9. Meirav Ben Ari
10. Ram Ben Barak
11. Yoav Seglovich
12. Boaz Toporovsky
13. Idan Roll
14. Yorai Lahav Herzog
15. Vladimir Bilak
16. Ron Katz

Petah Tikva deputy mayor Ron Katz. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Katz, 35, is the former deputy mayor of Petah Tikva. A lawyer by trade, Katz served in the IDF’s military prosecution and has continued practicing as a civilian, becoming an expert in family law and wills.

17. Nirah Shefak

Yesh Atid’s Nira Shefak. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Shefak, 55, had an illustrious, decades-long military career, during which she became the first woman to head the training branch of the Israeli Ground Forces. She was discharged with the rank of brigadier general and went on to work at the Defense Ministry followed by the now-defunct Homefront Defense Ministry.

Shas

1. Aryeh Deri
2. Yakov Margi
3. Yoav Ben-Tzur
4. Michael Michaeli
5. Haim Bitton
6. Moshe Arbel
7. Ynon Azoulay
8. Moshe Abutbul
9. Uriel Busso

Blue and White

1. Benny Gantz
2. Pnina Tamano-Shata
3. Chili Tropper
4. Michael Biton
5. Orit Farkash-Hacohen
6. Alon Shuster
7. Eitan Ginzburg
8. Yael Ron Ben-Moshe

United Torah Judaism

1. Moshe Gafni
2. Yaakov Litzman
3. Uri Maklev
4. Meir Porush
5. Yaakov Asher
6. Yisrael Eichler
7. Yitzhak Pindrus

Yamina

1. Naftali Bennett
2. Ayelet Shaked
3. Alon Davidi

Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern Israeli city of Sderot, attends a press conference in Jerusalem, March 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Davidi, 47, is the outgoing mayor of Sderot where he rose to national prominence for his activism in response to rocket fire from Gaza over the past two decades. A longtime Likud member, Davidi announced he was leaving the party ahead of the March election in order to run on Yamina’s list.

4. Matan Kahana
5. Amihai Chikli

Amichai Chikli (Flash90)

Chikli, 40, is the founder of the Tavor Academy for Social Leadership in Nazareth Illit. The project also includes a program to prepare foreign volunteers for their service in the IDF. Chikli ran on the New Right’s list in 2019, but the party failed to cross the electoral threshold.

6. Nir Orbach

Jewish Home Director-General Nir Orbach speaks at the party’s primary elections in Ramat Gan on February 4, 2019. (Flash90)

Orbach, 50, is the former director of the Jewish Home party. He ran for leadership of the national religious faction, but lost to Hagit Moshe and subsequently bolted the party to join longtime confidant Naftali Bennett on the Yamina list. Orbach previously served as parliamentary adviser to former National Religious Party lawmakers Effie Eitam and Nissan Slomianksy.

7. Abir Kara

Abir Kara (Facebook)

Kara, 37, is the head of the “I Am Shulman” protest group of small business owners and self-employed workers. The group, which was formed before the coronavirus pandemic, swelled in support and numbers as unemployment rates soared. Kara has become a face of the rallying cry for the self-employed in Israel, who have long complained of unfair treatment by the government.

Labor

1. Merav Michaeli
2. Omer Barlev
3. Emilie Moatti

Emilie Moatti attends a Labor Party campaign event in Tel Aviv, January 23, 2019.(Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Moatti, 40, is a former filmmaker and political commentator on a number of major TV networks. She has been active in the peace movement, serving on boards of the Geneva Initiative and the Israel Regional Initiative. She is also a feminist activist, serving on the board of WePower, which seeks to integrate women onto the local and national political stage.

4. Gilad Kariv

Rabbi Gilad Kariv takes part in prayers on Israel’s independence day at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv in 2018. (Courtesy Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism)

Kariv will be the first Reform rabbi to ever serve in the Knesset. The leader of the Israeli Reform movement and a longtime religious pluralism activist, Kariv has been running in Israeli elections over the span of almost nine years, but has never been successful until now. Despite ultra-Orthodox MKs having already said they would refuse to work with him, in a recent interview with The Times of Israel, Kariv called for a “new deal” with Israel’s Haredi community

5. Efrat Raitan

Labor candidate Efrat Raitan is interviewed by Channel 12 on January 31, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Raitan, 48, is a former actor and television host who left showbusiness to study law. She represented the families of the children who drowned in the 2018 Nahal Tzafit flood in the high profile case against the pre-military program that organized the trip from which 10 teen participants did not return.

6. Ram Shefa
7. Ibtisam Mara’ana

Labor Party member Ibtisam Mara’ana at a Supreme Court hearing in Jerusalem on February 24, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Mara’ana, the only Israeli Arab on Labor’s list, is a seasoned and well-known documentary filmmaker with several movies and docuseries to her credit. The Central Elections Committee disqualified Mara’ana from the Labor slate over several controversial past tweets about the country’s Zionist identity, including a declaration that she had deliberately ignored an annual two minutes of silence held on Memorial Day. The Supreme Court overruled the ban.

New Hope

1. Gideon Sa’ar
2. Yifat Shasha Bitton
3. Ze’ev Elkin
4. Yoaz Hendel
5. Sharren Haskel
6. Benny Begin

Joint List

1. Ayman Odeh
2. Ahmad Tibi
3. Sami Shahada
4. Aida Touma-Sliman
5. Osama Saadi
6. Ofer Kassif

Yisrael Beytenu

1. Avigdor Liberman
2. Oded Forer
3. Ivgeni Suba
4. Eli Avidar
5. Yulia Milanovsky
6. Hamad Amar

Religious Zionism

1. Bezalel Smotrich
2. Michal Waldiger

Religious Zionism’s Michal Waldiger. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Waldiger until recently served as the director of the Bat Ami organization, which places religious Zionist teen girls in national service programs throughout the country. She has vowed to place mental health issues at the top of her agenda in the Knesset.

3. Itamar Ben Gvir

Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit party, holds a press conference in Jerusalem on February 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ben Gvir, 44, is a disciple of extremist rabbi Meir Kahane and head of the neo-Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party, which merged into Religious Zionism before the election. A rabble-rouser activist in his youth, he spent many hours in court as a defendant before passing the bar and going on to represent ultra-nationalist Jews accused of perpetrating racially motivated attacks against Arabs and Palestinians. Ben Gvir has vowed to act in parliament on behalf of IDF soldiers who he claims are afraid to shoot at Palestinians throwing rocks or Molotov cocktails because they’re worried about the legal repercussions. He has also said that he will demand the creation of the position of minister of defense of the Negev and the Galilee for himself, claiming residents routinely suffer from violence by unchallenged Arab gangs.

4. Simcha Rothman

Religious Zionist Party member Simcha Rothman seen at the party headquarters in Modi’in on elections night, March 23, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Rothman is a conservative activist and legal adviser for the Israeli Movement for Governability and Democracy. The No. 4 candidate was one of the first voices in favor of a Supreme Court override clause to limit the power of the judiciary. Rothman hopes to lead the party’s campaign to reform the judiciary and has been outspoken, along with other Religious Party candidates, regarding the conduct of the attorney general and the state prosecutor in the Netanyahu corruption trial.

5. Orit Struck
6. Avi Maoz

Noam party chairman Avi Maoz (Noam Party)

Maoz, 64, is the head of the anti-LGBT Noam party, which merged with Religious Zionism ahead of the election. The party burst onto the political scene in 2019 with a series of provocative highway billboards and video ads with the slogan “Israel chooses to be normal.” The party claims that the LGBT community has “forced its agenda” on the rest of Israeli society, which believes in a “normal” (heteronormative) family structure. Maoz has served as director of the interior and housing ministries under ministers Natan Sharansky and Effi Eitam, respectively, from 1999-2001.

Meretz

1. Nitzan Horovitz
2. Tamar Zandberg
3. Yair Golan
4. Jida Renawi Zoabi

Jida Rinawi Zoabi. (Meretz)

Zoabi, 48, is a prominent activist for Arab Israeli rights and businesswoman who served as executive director of the Injaz Center for Professional Arab Local Governance. She was named in 2018 as one of the 50 most influential women in Israel by Forbes. Zoabi made headlines earlier this month when she told the Kul al-Arab network that she’d abstain in a vote banning gay conversion therapy “out of respect” for the Arab public from which she came. Later that day, the party released a video of a somber Zoabi assuring voters that she would in fact support such legislation and back every effort in support of LGBT equality.

5. Issawi Frij
6. Mossi Raz

Ra’am

1. Mansour Abbas
2. Walid Taha
3. Maazan Renaim
4. Said Alkharomi

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