Who’s who in the new Netanyahu-led government

A look at the 32 ministers, just 6 of them women, in Israel's 37th government from Likud and its far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners, and some of their newly created ministries

Members of the new Israeli government, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pose for a group photo at the president's residence in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday introduced the members of Israel’s 37th government ahead of its swearing-in at the Knesset.

Netanyahu’s bloc, which won 64 of the 120 Knesset seats in the November 1 election, consists of his Likud party, two ultra-Orthodox parties, and three far-right religious factions.

Despite the bloc’s cohesion, it took weeks of negotiations and wrangling until the government was formed, and key positions, including that of the foreign minister, remained in flux until Netanyahu came to the Knesset podium to introduce his ministers. He then made further additions in the course of Thursday.

There are just six women in the 32-member cabinet (compared to nine women in the previous 27-minister government) — as presented by Netanyahu on Thursday morning and subsequently updated by him.

The oldest cabinet member is incoming agriculture minister Avi Dichter (Likud) at 75. The youngest, Yitzhak Wasserlauf, 30, of Otzma Yehudit will become minister for the development of the Negev and the Galilee. At 73, Netanyahu is the second oldest member.

Likud

Prime minister — Benjamin Netanyahu. The veteran Likud party leader returns for a third time as premier after a year and a half in the opposition. Before that, he was prime minister for 12 years in succession, as well as in 1996-1999.

Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with his pick for defense minister, Yoav Gallant, on December 22, 2022 (Likud)

Defense minister — Yoav Gallant. Gallant, a former top general who began his military career in the elite Shayetet 13 naval commando unit, is a highly regarded military strategist. Though once in the running to be IDF chief of staff, he had to pull out after becoming embroiled in a scandal regarding the encroachment of his house and garden onto public lands.

Then-Education Minister Yoav Gallant at a conference in Jerusalem on March 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign minister — Eli Cohen. Cohen, who has served as economy minister and intelligence minister, was a surprise pick for the job, confirmed only minutes before Netanyahu announced it. He will serve in a rotation with Israel Katz, who had been the favorite for the post.

MK Eli Cohen at the Economy Ministry in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice minister — Yariv Levin. A former vice chairman of the Israeli Bar Association, Levin has been involved in legal reform since he joined the Likud’s Knesset slate in 2009. In the past weeks, he served briefly as Knesset speaker to chaperone legislation desired by Likud’s coalition partners. He will now oversee some of the new government’s most controversial policies, with judicial reforms that will see the Knesset reduce the oversight power of the courts and expand its control over judicial appointments. He previously served as minister of public security, tourism, and aliyah and integration.

Likud MK Yariv Levin arrives for coalition talks at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 10, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Education Minister — Yoav Kisch. Kisch will also serve as a coordinator between the government and the Knesset. He has previously served as deputy health minister. Several key departments of the Education Ministry have been transferred out of its control to those of other ministries.

File: MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee at the Knesset, on January 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Communications minister — Shlomo Karhi. Known for his inflammatory rhetoric, Karhi has never served as a minister before. Last month Karhi voiced support for shutting down the news divisions of the Kan public broadcaster and the semi-civilian Army Radio.

Likud MK Shlomo Karhi attends an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Economy and industry minister — Nir Barkat. A former mayor of Jerusalem and successful tech entrepreneur, Barkat placed in the eighth spot on the Likud slate after the party’s August primary.

Likud MK Nir Barkat arrives to cast his vote during Likud’s primaries at a polling station in Jerusalem, August 10, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Transportation minister — Miri Regev. The veteran Likud lawmaker returns to the ministry she held in 2020-2021. Regev also previously served as culture and sports minister. She was the highest-ranking woman in this summer’s Likud party primaries.

MK Miri Regev speaks at a Likud party election event in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood of Jerusalem, September 11, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Tourism minister — Haim Katz. A former minister of labor, welfare and social services, Katz was given a six-month suspended sentence earlier this year after being convicted under a plea bargain in a graft case.

Likud MK Haim Katz speaks at a Knesset plenary session in Jerusalem on February 17, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Innovation, science and technology minister — Ofir Akunis. The lawmaker held the same ministry in 2015-2020. He has also been minister of labor, social affairs, and social services, and most recently minister for regional cooperation (2020-2021).

Likud MK Ofir Akunis speaks at the Knesset, on May 20, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Agriculture minister — Avi Dichter. Dichter is a former head of the Shin Bet security service. He has previously been minister of internal security, and home front defense.

Likud MK Avi Dichter speaks in the Knesset on December 27, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Diaspora affairs and social equality minister — Amichai Chikli. Chikli entered the Knesset in 2021 as a member of the Yamina party but immediately voted against establishing a government with the left-wing Meretz and Islamist Ra’am party. He was eventually ousted from Yamina and then prevented from joining Likud due to Knesset regulations, but successfully appealed against that disqualification.

Likud MK Amichai Chikli during a vote in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Culture and sports minister — Miki Zohar. The lawmaker is a former deputy speaker of the Knesset and coalition whip, and was Likud faction chair during the party’s recent stint in the opposition.

Likud MK Miki Zohar attends a conference at the Reichman University in Herzliya, June 12, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Environmental protection minister — Idit Silman. Silman entered the previous parliament as a member of the Yamina party, which led the outgoing government. She was instrumental in bringing down the Lapid-Bennett government when she quit the coalition in April this year, a step that deprived the ruling bloc of its majority and eventually led to the government’s collapse two months later. Then-opposition chairman Netanyahu subsequently gave Silman a reserved spot on his party’s slate.

MK Idit Silman, leads a Health Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on June 7, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Energy Minister — Israel Katz. Katz was a favorite for the position of foreign minister and stormed out of a meeting with Netanyahu on Wednesday after being informed he would have to share the post with Cohen and go second in the rotation. Instead, former foreign and finance minister Katz was appointed to head the Energy Ministry. Katz later relented and agreed to rotate with Cohen, although the specifics of the rotation were unclear.

Israeli Minister of Finance Yisrael Katz holds a press conference at the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem on July 1, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Intelligence minister — Gila Gamliel. An appointment announced after Netanyahu had formerly presented his government, and too late to be sworn-in later Thursday with the other ministers, Gamliel is a former minister for Social Equality and Environmental Protection.

Former Minister of Environmental Protection, MK Gila Gamliel, at the annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, Jerusalem, March 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Minister of Public Diplomacy — Galit Distel Atbaryan. The Likud loyalist was initially named a minister with no specific responsibilities, but then assigned Public Diplomacy, a role split off from the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Distel Atbaryan has been a novelist and political commentator.

Likud MK Galit Distel Atbaryan in the opening of the Knesset summer session in Jerusalem on May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office — May Golan. Disappointed at initially not being offered a ministerial post, Golan was named a minister 11 days after the government took office.

File: Likud MK May Golan visits MK Itamar Ben Gvir’s temporary office in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, February 14, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Shas

Interior minister, health minister — Aryeh Deri. In two years, Deri will take over as finance minister as part of a rotation deal with Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich. He will also be a deputy prime minister for the entirety of the government’s term. Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthdox Shas party, has previously served as interior minister as well as holding other portfolios in a political career spanning 30 years. Earlier this year he was given a suspended sentence for tax offenses, his second conviction after having been sent to prison in 2000 for taking bribes during an earlier term as interior minister. His reappointment as a minister is facing a court challenge.

Shas leader Aryeh Deri (right) speaks with Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu (top left) and Likud MK Yariv Levin (bottom left), in the Knesset, December 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Welfare minister — Ya’akov Margi. In two years’ time, Margi is to hand over the ministry to fellow Shas MK Yoav Ben-Tzur. Margi has previously served as the minister for religious services.

MK Ya’akov Margi at a Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 8, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Minister within the Welfare Ministry — Yoav Ben-Tzur. Though he’s served as a deputy minister in various ministries in the past, it will be the first time for Ben-Tzur as a full minister.

Shas MK Yoav Ben-Tzur speaks during a campaign event of the Shas party in Tiberias, February 27, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Religious affairs minister — Michael Malchieli. This will be Malchieli’s first appointment as a minister.

Shas MK Michael Malchieli arrives for coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem on November 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Minister within the Education Ministry — Haim Biton. The lawmaker is a freshman government minister.

Shas MK Haim Biton arrives for coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem on November 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Religious Zionism

Finance minister, minister within the Defense Ministry — Bezalel Smotrich.  Smotrich’s position in the Defense Ministry will give him authority over civil affairs in the West Bank, including settlement construction. A staunch settlement supporter, Smotrich has pressed to extend Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, in line with religious and security ideology centered on maintaining Jewish control over the biblical Land of Israel.

Religious Zionism party head MK Bezalel Smotrich after coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem, December 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

National missions minister — Orit Strock. The newly created ministry will have some powers over West Bank settlements, national service, and pre-military academies, and will also get departments carved out from other ministries dealing with Jewish identity and Jewish culture, with a ministry official additionally serving as a member of national and local planning panels.

MK Orit Strock speaks during a visit of Religious Zionism party members in the Netiv Ha’avot settlement outpost in Gush Etzion, West Bank, on October 26, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Immigration and absorption minister — Ofir Sofer. It will be Sofer’s first appointment as a minister.

Religious Zionism MK Ofir Sofer arrives for the opening session of the Knesset, in Jerusalem on November 15, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

United Torah Judaism

Housing and construction minister — Yitzhak Goldknopf. A first-time lawmaker and minister, Goldknopf was to be the first-ever ultra-Orthodox member of the top-level security cabinet, but withdrew from that role.

United Torah Judaism party chief MK Yitzchak Goldknopf at a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Minister for Jerusalem, tradition and Mount Meron — Meir Porush. The ministry is being rebranded from the Jerusalem and Heritage Ministry, with the coalition deal stating it will now focus on “strengthening Jewish tradition, deepening the knowledge and connection of all parts of Israeli society to tradition” and advancing related projects. Porush has previously served as a deputy minister for housing and for education.

United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush arrives for coalition talks at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv on November 10, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Otzma Yehudit

National security minister — Itamar Ben Gvir. The newly formed National Security Ministry — an expanded Public Security Ministry — will have unprecedented powers over the Israel Police. His party’s coalition deal with Likud also provides for him to take over direct supervision of the entire Border Police, including its West Bank units that are currently under the authority of the Defense Ministry. It will be a first time serving as a government minister for the far-right politician, who has had numerous criminal convictions.

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir seen during a vote in the assembly hall of the Knesset, on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Minister for the development of the Negev and the GalileeYitzhak Wasserlauf. A political neophyte, 30-year-old Wasserlauf will be the cabinet’s youngest minister. Wasserlauf is seen as the field operations officer of the party and Ben Gvir’s righthand man.

Otzma Yehudit MK Yitzhak Wasserlauf in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on December 18, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Heritage minister — Amichai Eliyahu. The lawmaker entered the Knesset for the first time after the November elections. Eliyahu, who heads the Organization of Community Rabbis, a rabbinical group, is the grandson of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel, and the son of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of Safed and a leading national-religious figure.

Noam

Deputy minister within the Prime Minister’s Office — Avi Maoz. Leader of a far-right, anti-LGBTQ faction of one, Maoz will head an office in charge of Israel’s “Jewish national identity” and will oversee external programs in the education system, a function that was formerly within the Education Ministry.

MK Avi Maoz seen during a plenum session at the assembly hall of the Knesset, on December 27, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Nonpolitical appointment

Strategic affairs minister — Ron Dermer. Dermer, one of Netanyahu’s most trusted confidants, served for seven years as Israel’s ambassador to the US and was instrumental in brokering the Abraham Accords normalization deals with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. Dermer is not an MK.

File: Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States, walks through the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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