Dozens of lawmakers who served in the 23rd Knesset will not be a part of the 24th, with last week’s election and the run-up to it causing a major rearrangement of Israel’s political landscape.
Some 40 figures, a third of the legislature, will depart the national political scene when the new Knesset is sworn in on April 6. Some bowed out shortly before the country went to the polls, others will be saying goodbye to parliament in a week’s time; several have spent decades in the halls of power, while quite a few came in mere weeks ago to replace others who bolted.
Nearly all, however, are victims of Israel’s ongoing leadership crisis that has seen parties and political fortunes rapidly rise and fall after four national votes in two years.
A few of the ejected MKs might soon return: If a government is eventually formed, the so-called Norwegian Law would allow any incoming minister to quit the Knesset, enabling the next person on the party’s slate to enter.
But at least for now, they’re out.
Below is a look at some of the more prominent departing lawmakers.
Though it saw the best result of any other party by far, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party actually had its poorest showing of the last four election cycles, winning 30 seats, down from 36 last time. This has left several people outside the Knesset.
- Osnat Mark, a strident and divisive defender of party leader Netanyahu, was placed 34th on Likud’s electoral slate. Mark entered the Knesset in 2015, lost her seat in 2019, then rejoined parliament last year when Gilad Erdan left to assume the ambassadorship to the US and UN. Mark was known for her abrasive style, for media appearances in which she strongly defended Netanyahu, and for calling then-Likud MK Michal Shir an “insolent bitch” when Shir turned her back on the party in December. Mark later apologized for the remark.
- Uzi Dayan was No. 32 on the Likud slate. A nephew of legendary general Moshe Dayan, he was a former deputy IDF chief of staff and ex-head of the National Security Council before entering the Knesset in 2019. During his brief parliamentary career, Dayan submitted a bill to revoke the citizenship of terrorists and called for legislation to allow troops to fire upon anyone trying to kidnap them or steal their weapon. Before entering politics, he testified in support of Elor Azaria, a soldier convicted of killing an incapacitated Palestinian attacker in 2016.
- Ayoub Kara has served in the Knesset for Likud on and off since 1999. The Druze politician most recently served as communications minister in 2017-2019, during which time he starred in a leaked audiotape in which the prime minister was heard berating him and actively intervening in the TV market after being forced to give up the communications portfolio himself. Kara did not make it into the Knesset in the April 2019 election, but came back last December after MK Sharren Haskel quit to join Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party,
- Former Likud backbencher Michal Shir, who was credited with hastening last week’s elections by voting against extending a budget deadline, won’t be back in parliament after Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party — to which she defected from Likud — won just six seats in the Knesset. Shir was placed ninth on the roster of New Hope, once expected to easily cruise to double digits.
- Honorable mentions: Tali Ploskov, Ariel Kelner, Amit Halevi, Nissim Vaturi, Shevah Stern, Mati Yogev.
Blue and White
Benny Gantz’s party had some of the heaviest casualties, with what had once been a serious contender for the country’s leadership all-but collapsing in the run-up to the March 23 vote after numerous defections and resignations. Gantz ended up defying skeptics, who predicted he could fail to enter the Knesset at all, managing to win eight seats and becoming the fourth-largest faction in parliament. However, he still lost about half his parliamentary power, and many of his closest allies.
- Gabi Ashkenazi, a former IDF chief of staff, was one of the chief architects of Blue and White and a top Gantz ally in the party. He serves as foreign minister in the transitional government, a post he has held since May 2020, and will remain in that role until a new government is formed. However, after three grueling campaigns, with Blue and White on the decline and amid reports he had become disillusioned with Gantz’s leadership, Ashkenazi announced ahead of the recent elections that he would take a break from politics. Still, for the moment, and with no clear path to a new coalition, he continues to head Israel’s diplomatic corps.
- Avi Nissenkorn, the former Histadrut labor union chief, was also one of Gantz’s leading men in the party and was appointed justice minister as part of the ill-fated power-sharing government with Likud in 2020. From that post he led the party’s fight to defend the judiciary and the independence of the Justice Ministry from what it said were repeated attacks by Likud. But Nissenkorn came to lose faith in Gantz, later saying he felt the party “was moving further and further away from my world view.” He quit the party in late December to join Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s The Israelis, but bet on a losing horse: The once-promising new faction went on to crash in opinion polls and fall out of the race, and Nissenkorn said he would take a break from politics.
- Miki Haimovich, a former top news anchor, was one of the highest-profile figures to join Gantz’s political platform when he launched it in 2019. A committed environmentalist, she headed the Knesset’s Environment Committee after the 2020 election. Throughout the year Haimovich was seen as one of the leading voices against the continued partnership with Likud in the unity government, and was one of three Blue and White MKs to vote against a proposal to extend a budget deadline in December, setting the course for the dissolution of the government and the triggering of elections. Gantz then informed her she would not be included in the party’s slate for the new election. She later said she was “proud” to have voted against the dysfunctional coalition.
- Before joining Blue and White, Asaf Zamir served as deputy mayor of Tel Aviv for several years. He was appointed tourism minister with the formation of the unity government in May 2020, a post he held until October, when he resigned from the cabinet, saying he could no longer serve under Netanyahu and accusing him of placing his own political survival above the coronavirus crisis and the good of the nation. Zamir remained an MK but joined Haimovich in voting against the budget extension in December, leading Gantz to inform him he would not be included in the party’s slate for the latest election.
- Former science and technology minister Izhar Shay entered parliament with Blue and White in 2019, becoming a minister in May 2020. He left the party and resigned from the cabinet in January 2021 after announcing he would be joining Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem party. But just a month later, Telem dropped out of the race as polls showed it doing poorly. An engineer and entrepreneur, Shay wrote a column in the Globes business daily for over a decade and authored two books.
- Omer Yankelevich, Israel’s first-ever female ultra-Orthodox minister, who held the Diaspora affairs portfolio, quit politics ahead of the March election. During previous rounds of elections, social media accounts supporting Netanyahu’s Likud party spread rumors that Yankelevich was having an affair with the Blue and White leader. Last year a Channel 12 news report dropped hints about alleged personal ties between the minister and Gantz, which she flatly dismissed. Yankelevich angered other Blue and White lawmakers in November by indicating that her party supports the legalization of wildcat outposts in the West Bank, many of which are built on private Palestinian land.
- Michal Cotler-Wunsh was sworn into the Knesset in June 2020 under the so-called Norwegian law after several party MKs became ministers and quit the Knesset. A lawyer and activist with a PhD in law from Hebrew University, she was active in combating anti-Semitism on social media. Cotler-Wunsh is the daughter of former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler and was raised in Canada.
- Tehila Friedman, a freshman lawmaker, had the rare distinction of having her 11-minute maiden speech in parliament last year — a tearful plea for unity in Israel and against hatred — resonate deeply and go viral. Friedman has been an active lawmaker in her short time in parliament, challenging the Education Ministry on its preparations for the school year in the shadow of the pandemic and railing at the impact of spending cuts brought on by the budget impasse in the Knesset on Israel’s underprivileged and youth at risk.
- Hila Shay Vazan was one of the first people to join Gantz when he founded his Israel Resilience Party in December 2018. Following the merger of Israel Resilience with Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem Party and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid — resulting in the Blue and White alliance — Vazan placed 39th on the joint slate and was left outside parliament in the three elections that followed. She eventually entered the Knesset in June 2020 under the Norwegian Law. Ahead of the latest election, Shay Vazan announced she was quitting Blue and White and joining Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope. But her position at number 10 on the party slate meant that she did not make it into the Knesset.
- Honorable mentions: Einav Kabala, Ram Shefa, Ruth Wasserman Lande.
- Former defense minister and IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon bowed out of politics ahead of this election, after it became clear his Telem party, running solo, would not clear the electoral threshold. A former Likud stalwart, Ya’alon most recently aligned himself with the protest movement against Netanyahu, courting the centrist vote despite holding views that are squarely right-wing. Ya’alon first entered the Knesset with Likud in 2009. A hawk on Iran and staunch supporter of settlements, Ya’alon famously stoked diplomatic tensions with the US in 2014 when he called then-secretary of state John Kerry “messianic and obsessive.”
- Ex-journalist Ofer Shelah announced he was joining Lapid’s Yesh Atid when the party was formed in 2012 and quickly gained a reputation as an effective lawmaker. However, in December 2020 he announced he was leaving the party, citing Lapid’s ongoing rejection of his demand to hold internal party leadership primaries. Shelah started the Tnufa party but never gained the support necessary to make inroads on his own, and dropped out of the electoral race after failing to reach a deal to merge with Labor with polls showing the newly formed party falling far below the electoral threshold.
- TV anchor Gadeer Mreeh made history in April 2019 when she became the first Druze woman to enter the Knesset, pledging to work to reform the controversial Jewish State Law, which her Druze community saw as downgrading their status in the country. She broke with Gantz when he decided to join Netanyahu’s government in March 2020, and remained part of Yesh Atid’s faction. Ahead of the March election, she announced she would not be running.
- Honorable mentions: Orly Fruman, Andrey Kozhinov, Moshe Tor-Paz, Anat Knafo.
- Tzvi Hauser began his career in politics as a Likud spokesperson in 1994 and served as cabinet secretary for Netanyahu’s government in 2009-2013, but eventually became disillusioned with the premier. He joined Ya’alon’s rightist Telem faction within the Blue and White alliance, but last March broke off along with Yoaz Hendel to join Gantz in entering the power-sharing government, as part of the Blue and White leader’s bloc. He joined Gideon Sa’ar’s right-wing New Hope party ahead of last week’s election and was placed eighth on the slate, but fell by the wayside after the party’s disappointing showing in last Tuesday’s vote. He served as head of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee under Gantz, until the Blue and White party chief fired him in December after he announced his plan to join Sa’ar.
- Prior to the latest election, former Labor leader and current Economy Minister Amir Peretz was the longest-serving member of the Knesset, and has had two stints as the party’s leader (during his first term he also served as Israel’s defense minister during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.). Under Peretz, Labor received just three seats as part of its alliance with the Gesher and Meretz parties in the March 2020 election, the worst-ever showing for the party that ruled Israel for its first 30 years. Peretz, 69, famously shaved off his iconic mustache ahead of that election so voters could read his lips that he would not join a Netanyahu-led government. He then went on to join a Netanyahu-led government. In January he stepped aside as Labor leader and announced he was taking a break from political life, though he remains a minister in the transitional government.
- Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli entered the Knesset in 2013 after making a name for himself as one of the leaders of 2011 social protests, in which hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to demonstrate against the high cost of living. As a member of Knesset, Shmuli championed minority rights, disabled people’s rights and benefits for retirees. After publicly coming out as gay following a deadly stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade in 2015, he has also become a key lawmaker in the battle for homosexual surrogacy rights. Shmuli became minister after entering the government alongside Gantz’s Blue and White last year. After acknowledging that his decision to do so was a “mistake,” Shmuli said in February that he would be taking a break from politics. He remains interim minister until a new government is formed.
- Yitzhak Cohen announced earlier this year that he was quitting politics, ending a 25-year run. Cohen is a former deputy finance minister and religious affairs minister, and was an active parliamentarian on the Knesset’s committees, including a stint as the head of the Ethics Committee between 2013 and 2015.
- Meshulam Nahari didn’t run on Shas’s slate this past election, after over 20 years in politics as a representative for the ultra-Orthodox party. Since entering the Knesset for the first time in 1999, Nahari has held numerous cabinet posts, including deputy interior minister; deputy education minister; deputy welfare minister; and minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry.
- Honorable mention: Yosef Taieb.
United Torah Judaism
- Honorable mentions: Yaakov Tessler, Eliyahu Hasid, Eliyahu Baruchi.
- Iman Khatib-Yasin was catapulted from near anonymity to headline fame when she became Israel’s first hijab-wearing MK after the March 2020 election. A self-described feminist, Khatib-Yasin became the first woman from the Southern Islamic Movement to be elected to the Knesset. At the time of her entry into the Knesset she said she hoped to address violence in Arab society and violence against women specifically, as well as issues of employment for Arab women and bettering education for children in the Arab community. Khatib-Yasin was another victim of the recent political reshuffling. Ahead of the election, her Ra’am party split from the Joint List and she was placed fifth on its slate. However, Ra’am scraped past the Knesset threshold to win just four seats, leaving Khatib-Yasin outside.
- Ilan Gilon is a long-time member of the dovish left-wing party. Gilon has been on the Israeli political scene since 1999 when he won a seat in the Knesset, though since then his on-and-off presence in the house was a reflection of Meretz’s vacillating success in the polls. He announced in December that he would not be running for Knesset.
The most moderate of the four self-identifying national religious parties, Jewish Home was, ahead of the elections, under strong pressure from Netanyahu to merge with MK Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism alliance, which brought together the three others: National Union and the far-right Otzma Yehudit and anti-LGBT Noam parties. But new Jewish Home leader Hagit Moshe, declaring she was frustrated at the negotiations, pulled the party out of the elections in a last-minute surprise just before the February deadline to submit slates. She said the party would instead throw its support behind MK Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, which eventually won six seats.
The party will now be left out of the Knesset for the first time in many years.
- Rafi Peretz, the minister for Jerusalem Affairs, was the party’s lone representative in the outgoing Knesset. He served as Jewish Home leader after Naftali Bennett’s departure in 2019. In January he announced he would quit politics after the coming election and was replaced by Moshe through internal party elections. Following the March 2020 election, Peretz split his party from Bennett’s Yamina (which at the time was made up of New Right, Jewish Home and National Union) to take up a cabinet post in the government, after much cajoling from Netanyahu. He previously served as education minister in 2019-2020. A former chief rabbi of the IDF, Peretz drew criticism in July 2019 for remarks in which he apparently advocated gay conversion therapy. In the wake of protests, he later said he rejects the controversial treatment. In 2020 he gave an interview in which he appeared to suggest that only heterosexual marriage is a “natural” family, again drawing condemnation from LGBT groups. He will continue as minister until the next government is formed.
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- Israel Inside
- Osnat Mark
- Uzi Dayan
- Ayoub Kara
- Michal Shir
- Gabi Ashkenazi
- Avi Nissenkorn
- Miki Haimovich
- Asaf Zamir
- Omer Yankelevich
- Michal Cotler-Wunsh
- Tehila Friedman
- Hila Shay Vazan
- Moshe Ya'alon
- Ofer Shelah
- Gadeer Mreeh
- Tzvi Hauser
- Amir Peretz
- Itzik Shmuli
- Yitzhak Cohen
- Meshulam Nahari
- Iman Khatib-Yasin
- Ilan Gilon
- Rafi Peretz
- 2021 Israeli elections