Final Election Results Are In |

Who Will Make Up Israel's 19th Knesset?

No fewer than 53 MKs are leaving the Knesset to make room for new faces, including nine journalists, two former chiefs of the staff, two former student leaders and a 27-year-old woman.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

In a typical election cycle, Israel can expect about one third of its sitting Knesset members to be replaced. This time, however, it looks as if that figure will be a great deal higher. According to the nearly final results published Wednesday night, no fewer than 53 MKs will be leaving the Knesset to make room for new faces.

Indeed, the 19th Knesset is shaping up to look substantially different than its predecessor. It will feature more journalists, more women and more religiously observant MKs, fewer members of the “citizen loyalty” coalition, and more graduates of the social-justice protest movement.

As such, the incoming Knesset’s agenda is expected to undergo major changes. Together with large-scale cutbacks in the state budget, other matters that are likely to receive a great deal of attention include equal sharing of the national service burden, affordable housing, and an overhaul of Israel’s system of government.

In a few weeks, about 50 new Knesset members, some of whom are returning to the Knesset after a hiatus, will be filling the seats in the plenum. Among them will be nine journalists. Yair Lapid, Ofer Shelah and Miki Rosenthal will join former journalists Shelly Yacimovich, Uri Orbach, Nitzan Horowitz, Gideon Sa’ar and Silvan Shalom. Two former journalists who served in the outgoing Knesset, Daniel Ben Simon and Nino Abesadze, were not reelected.

The next Knesset will have no shortage of security-minded members. Two former chiefs of staff, two generals and four major generals of the police force, together with two former heads and one deputy head of the Shin Bet security service, made it onto the various lists. Lt. Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya’alon (Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu) aspires to become defense minister in the new government, and Lt. Gen. (res.) Shaul Mofaz just cleared the electoral threshold. They will be joined by two other generals in the reserves, members of Hatnuah – Amram Mitzna and Elazar Stern.

The Israel Police will also be well represented in the next Knesset. Four major generals, all of them from similar graduating classes, will hold a reunion in the Knesset cafeteria. They are former Jerusalem police chief Miki Levy (Yesh Atid); former Tel Aviv District commander David Tsur (Hatnuah); former Investigations Unit head Moshe Mizrahi (Labor); and Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu), a former deputy police commissioner and the current public security minister.

Former Shin Bet chief Jacob Perry was elected to the Knesset on the Yesh Atid list. He will “replace” Avi Dichter, who succeeded him as head of the Shin Bet but failed in his bid for a place on Likud’s current list. Former Shin Bet deputy commander Israel Hasson evidently succeeded in getting into the Knesset in the second slot on Kadima’s list.

Although women are better represented in the incoming Knesset, with four more female MKs than in the previous Knesset, only 27 of the Knesset’s 120 members are women.

About one third of the incoming Knesset’s members are religiously observant, though they have varying world views. Alongside 11 members of Shas and seven members of United Torah Judaism, 11 members of Habayit Hayehudi belong to the religious Zionist movement, as do six Likud MKs. Three of Yesh Atid’s MKs live observant lifestyles, as does Hatnuah MK Elazar Stern.

The Jewish character of the state was at the center of a series of controversial legislative initiatives in the outgoing Knesset, in which a coalition worked to strengthen Israel’s Jewish identity over its democratic identity. This group worked to pass legislation that would change the face of the Supreme Court, provide benefits to Israel’s Jewish population at the expense of the Arab sector, and restrict the work of human-rights groups. But in the current Knesset, their ability to pass such legislation has been compromised, as the number of likeminded MKs appears to have decreased substantially.

Even at this early stage, we can assume that the third Netanyahu government will move forward with a series of major civil reforms. Netanyahu has announced his intention to work toward legislation equalizing the burden of national service; a reform that would lead to a drop in housing prices; and changes in the system of government. Meanwhile, if Yesh Atid, Hatnuah and Kadima join the government, they will apply pressure to resume the peace process with the Palestinians. The new government will also be asked within several months to finalize a budget with large cutbacks. This would likely substantially limit the ministries’ power to make radical changes in their fields.

Netanyahu’s partner on the Knesset list, Yisrael Beiteinu, is expected to emphasize security-related matters instead of the so-called "loyalty-citizenship" laws, dubbed such because they determine certain citizens' rights according to their "loyalty" to the state. Yisrael Beiteinu will demand minimum sentences for drug dealers, harsher punishment for soldiers who sell their weapons to criminals or terrorists, and minimum sentences for hit-and-run drivers. Party officials plan to ask for the interior and housing portfolios, together with those of agriculture and public security, in order to fight illegal construction and land theft. The party will also ask for the immigrant absorption portfolio in order to offer assistance to its traditionally immigrant base.

In the previous term Yisrael Beiteinu took over the law-enforcement portfolios. Party member Aharonovitch served as public security minister, and the chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee was party member MK David Rotem – though Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman was appointed at Yisrael Beiteinu’s expense. During coalition negotiations, however, the justice portfolio and committee leadership are not seen as critical assets.

Ofer Shelach, right, actually one of the better-known newbies to reach Knesset.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid delivers a speech to his supporters after winning 19 Knesset seats.Credit: AP

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