More Women and Arabs, Fewer Orthodox in Next Knesset

More than one-third of lawmakers will be new to Knesset, according to Israel Democracy Institute analysis on composition of 20th parliament.

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
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Joint List head Ayman Odeh.
Joint List head Ayman Odeh.Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

Based on the final election results, a record number of women, far more Arabs and considerably fewer Orthodox lawmakers will serve in the next Knesset. There will also be fewer parties represented among its 120 members thanks to the increase in the minimum threshold for representation.

Here are some of the major changes in the composition of the 20th Knesset, based on an analysis published Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute:

A record number of 28 women will serve in the next Israeli Knesset, compared with 27 in the previous Knesset, which was also a record at the time. Eight of the 24 representatives on the Zionist Union slate are women, as compared with 6 out of 30 in Likud. The new joint Arab ticket has two women on it, as does Meretz. But in the small left-wing Zionist party, which made it into the Knesset by the skin of its teeth, they account for half the list. In the new center-right Kulanu party, four of the 10 representatives who will sit in the next Knesset are women. Among those women who served in the 19th Knesset, who will not be back because their parties lost too many seats, are Hebron settler Orit Strock of Habayit Hayehudi, Jewish renewal activist Ruth Calderon of Yesh Atid and Pnina Tamano-Shata, also of Yesh Atid and the first Ethiopian-born woman to serve in the Knesset.

Mainly, but not only, thanks to the strong showing of the new Joint List, the new Knesset will see a significant increase in Arab representation. Seventeen Arabs will serve in the 20th Knesset, compared with 12 in the previous. Along with 13 out of the 14 members of the Joint List, there will be four Arab parliamentarians representing Zionist parties. That’s double their number in the previous Knesset.

Fewer Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox members will serve in the 20th Knesset, after the main religious parties lost quite a large number of seats mainly to Likud. Thirty-nine members of the outgoing Knesset were either Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox. But with both Habayit Hayehudi, the national religious party, and Shas, the ultra-Orthodox Sephardi party, shrinking dramatically – not to mention United Torah Judaism, the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi party, losing one seat – the total number in the 20th Knesset is down to 25.

An overwhelming majority of the members of the incoming Knesset are native-born Israelis: 96 out of 120. Among the immigrants are three brand new Knesset members – one American and two Argentineans. The American is former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, No. 4 on the Kulanu list. He will be the only American-born member of the new Knesset – a distinction held in the last Knesset by Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid, who was too low on his party list to get in this time. The two Argentineans are economics professor Manuel Trajtenberg of the Zionist Union and kibbutznik Haim Yellin of Yesh Atid.

The new Knesset will have no openly gay members, after Nitzan Horowitz, who served as a Meretz representative in the 18th and 19th Knesset, decided to call it quits.

More than one-third – 41 to be precise – of the members of the 20th Knesset are new faces. That includes 11 new lawmakers from Likud, nine from Zionist Union, nine from Kulanu and seven from the Joint List.

Although they are far from the majority, nine members of the 20th Knesset live in West Bank settlements. Twenty-two members of the new Knesset hail from the north of Israel and eight from the south. There will be 16 Tel Avivians and an identical number of Jerusalemites sitting in the new Knesset.

Among the parties, the biggest winners in this election were Likud and Kulanu, and the biggest losers were Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beiteinu. Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, whose constituents are mainly Russian-speaking voters, ran on one ticket in the last election, when they won a total of 31 seats. In this election, Likud won 30 seats alone (compared with 20 in the last election) and Yisrael Beiteinu got 6 (compared with 11 in the last election). Kulanu, with 10 seats, did not exist in the last Knesset. The other centrist party, Yesh Atid, lost eight seats in Tuesday’s election, giving it just 11 this time around.

Because of the increase in the minimum threshold for representation (from 2 percent to 3.25 percent), fewer parties got into the new Knesset. Only 10 parties will serve in the 20th Knesset – the lowest number since 1992.

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