Who’s who in Israel’s 36th government

Here’s a scorecard to keep track of all the new names and faces in Jerusalem’s halls of power.

By World Israel News Staff

The new government of Israel sweeps a lot of new and younger faces into the cabinet. While critics don’t expect the coalition and its one-seat Knesset majority to last, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says his government will have staying power.

Here’s a who’s who of the key players who will be in the news in the coming days and weeks.

Prime Minister: Naftali Bennett: Leader of the right-wing religious-Zionist Yemina party. The son of American immigrants, the 49-year-old Bennett made his fortune as a software entrepreneur before entering politics in 2006.

His early political career includes a two-year stint as Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff and another two years as director-general of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of the Israeli settlers movement. In more recent years, he has held the defense, education and diaspora affairs portfolios, among others.

Bennett and his wife, Gilat, live in Ra’anana with their four children.

Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid: Leader of the secular, centrist Yesh Atid party. Prior to entering politics, Lapid was a prominent news anchor and columnist. He is widely credited with being the driving force behind the formation of the Change bloc. Lapid served as finance minister for nearly two years and then as the Knesset’s opposition leader.

Under the terms of the rotation agreement, Lapid and Bennett will switch posts in two years.

He has clashed with the Haredi community over issues such as Sabbath commerce and army deferments for yeshiva students.

Lapid lives in Tel Aviv with his wife, Lihi and their two children. Lapid has another son from a previous marriage.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz: Leader of the secular, centrist Blue and White party. Gantz served as IDF chief of staff before entering politics. Gantz allied himself with Lapid for the March 2020 election campaign. After the election resulted in political stalemate, Gantz broke with Lapid to join Benjamin Netanyahu in a national unity government to fight the Covid pandemic.

The unity government included a rotation agreement that would have seen Gantz becoming prime minister in November, 2021. But Gantz’s popularity fell after Netanyahu broke the deal.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman: Leader of the secular, right-wing Israel Beiteinu party. Liberman was born in Moldova and came to Israel with his parents. Liberman became active in politics, rising to director-general of the Likud party in the ’90s, and then director-general of the prime minister’s office After a falling out with Netanyahu, Liberman formed the National Union, and then the Israel Beiteinu parties. Secular Russian immigrants make up the bulk of his political base.

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In previous governments, Liberman has held a number of cabinet portfolios, most notably defense and foreign affairs.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar: Leader of the secular, right-wing New Hope party. Like Bennett and Liberman, Sa’ar rose to Likud’s highest echelons before falling out with Netanyahu and leaving the party. He has held the interior and education portfolios in previous governments.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked: Number two person in Yemina. Shaked was a prominent Likud activist who quit the party to join forces with Naftali Bennett. Shaked previously served as Justice Minister.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli: Leader of the secular, left-wing Labor party. A former news anchor and columnist, Michaeli first went into politics in 2012.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz: Leader of the secular, left-wing Meretz party. A former journalist and commentator, Horowitz entered politics in 2009.

Knesset Member Mansour Abbas: Leader of the Islamist Arab Ra’am party. Abbas will hold no cabinet position, but his party’s four seats will make him a pivotal figure. A dentist by training, he first entered the Knesset in 2019 as a member of the United Arab List, a faction of the Joint List. Abbas broke with the Joint List. Ra’am is the first Arab party to join an Israeli governing coalition.

Speaker of the Knesset Mickey Levy: Member of Yesh Atid. A former police officer and of Kurdish descent, Levy formerly served as Deputy Minister of Finance.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu: Leader of the Likud party. As head of the largest party not in the governing coalition, Netanyahu will serve as opposition leader. The former prime minister says he will work to topple the Change bloc government.

Netanyahu served as prime minister for 12 years, and also for a three-year stint in the 90s. He is currently standing trial on charges of corruption. Netanyahu maintains he is innocent.