Who’s in and Who’s Out of Israel's New Knesset? The Good, the Bad and the Newly Unemployed

A Druze woman, new gay lawmakers and a young rabble-rouser: 8 new faces in the 2019 Knesset – and 7 you won’t be seeing anymore

Law makers from top left clockwise: Yoaz Hendel, Heba Yazbak, Miki Haimovich, Ali Salalha, Merav Michaeli, May Golan and Ofer Cassif
Meged Gozani, Gil Eliahu, Moti Milrod, Eyal Toueg, Tomer Appelbaum, Emil Salman

Tuesday’s Israeli election results will bring many fresh faces into the Knesset, while pushing out some familiar ones. Nearly half of the 48 newcomers come courtesy of Benny Gantz’s newly created Kahol Lavan party. Others are pleasantly surprised Likud members who were placed low down on the right-wing party’s initial slate.

Here are some of the most noteworthy faces who are “in” and “out” of the 21st Knesset...

IN

Ofer Cassif (Hadash-Ta'al)

Sole Jewish candidate for the mainly Arab Hadash party for the April 9 election Ofer Cassif attends a hearing at the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on March 13, 2019.
AFP

Cassif owes his place in the Knesset to the Supreme Court, which overturned an earlier Central Elections Committee decision barring him from standing. The Jewish representative on the otherwise Arab Hadash-Ta'al slate is likely to be a very controversial figure in the next parliament. He was one of the first Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in the occupied territories, in 1987, and once called then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum.” Then there was the time he characterized Jews who visit the Temple Mount as “cancer with metastases that have to be eradicated.” Expect fireworks when he enters the plenum and faces off against Likud minister Miri Regev.

Eitan Ginzburg (Kahol Lavan)

Kahol Lavan MK-elect Eitan Ginzburg.
Ofer Hajayov

The number of openly gay Israeli lawmakers in the next Knesset is set to increase by 150 percent — or, to put it less dramatically, will rise from two to five. In addition to Labor’s Itzik Shmuli and Likud’s Amir Ohana, Kahol Lavan will have three gay men on its slate.

The most prominent is Ginzburg, who was the country’s first openly gay mayor last March after becoming acting leader of Ra’anana. Like many prominent members of the LGBT community, Ginzburg, 42, is a family man: He has a young twin son and daughter with partner Yotam through a surrogate mother in Portland, Oregon.

The two other openly gay men entering the Knesset are Idan Roll, a model and gay activist — perhaps best known as the partner of local celebrity singer-songwriter Harel Skaat — and Yorai Lahav Hertzanu, formerly head of the young guard at Yesh Atid.

May Golan (Likud)

MK-elect May Golan at the Likud primary in Tel Aviv, February 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

A young and highly controversial right-wing activist from South Tel Aviv, Golan has been an outspoken, anti-poverty rabble-rouser from a young age. Golan, 32, called Michael Ben Ari — the Kahanist who was banned from running in this year’s election — a political mentor, and in recent years she has focused on one mission: Doing all she can to remove African asylum seekers from her neighborhood. Golan represents the shot of diversity Likud received as a result of its election success. Although the top 20 slots on its slate were widely criticized for being dominated by elderly or middle-aged white men, there are six women between the 24th and 35th positions, four of them newcomers to the Knesset.

Miki Haimovich (Kahol Lavan)

First-time lawmaker Miki Haimovich from the Kahol Lavan political alliance
Tomer Applebaum

Perhaps the most recognizable “new” face to hit the political scene in 2019, Haimovich is known to most Israeli households as a news anchor. Since stepping down from her nightly TV perch in 2011, Haimovich, 56, turned to documentary work and activism. She is a heroine of the animal activist community and introduced “Meatless Monday” to Israelis. The highest-ranking woman in her party, the vegan had been pegged as the likely environmental protection minister had her party’s leader, Benny Gantz, made it to the premiership. For now, she’ll have to settle for being a member of the Knesset.

Yoaz Hendel (Kahol Lavan)

Kahol Lavan MK-elect Yoaz Hendel.
Yanai Yechiel

It may seem counterintuitive, but some of the top figures in the party that went toe to toe with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were once his top aides. Hendel, 43, served as Netanyahu’s former director of communications and public diplomacy, but resigned in 2012 after blowing the whistle on a sexual harassment scandal in the prime minister’s office. The military historian spent the intervening years heading a right-wing think tank, and will now find himself in opposition to the prime minister.

Someone in a similar position is former Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, 51, who worked for Netanyahu for four years before quitting in 2013, reportedly over the PM’s concerns about his closeness to rival Gideon Sa’ar (who is also set to return to the Knesset after a four-year break, to make Bibi’s life even more interesting).

Gadeer Mreeh (Kahol Lavan)

Kahol Lavan MK-elect Gadeer Mreeh.
Sraya Diamant

A glass ceiling shattered when Mreeh, 37, became the first Druze woman to be elected to the Knesset. But breaking glass ceilings is nothing new for her: The television broadcaster was previously the first non-Jewish woman to anchor a Hebrew-language newscast. The rise of women like Mreeh onto the public stage parallels that of Orthodox Jewish women, who are overcoming strong social and religious norms that kept them behind the scenes for most of Israel’s history. No more.

Omer Yankelevich (Kahol Lavan)

Kahol Lavan MK-elect Omer Yankelevich.
Ofer Hajayov

The 40-year-old’s entrance into the Knesset will be a notable one: She will be the second ultra-Orthodox female politician in the Knesset, following Tzvia Greenfield, who served for a year as an MK for Meretz  from 2008-9. The British-Israeli former attorney is a social activist and mother of five from Beit Shemesh. But Yankelevich is not your typical feminist: While she is a strong legal advocate for women in her community, she is also outspoken when it comes to the rights of the ultra-Orthodox to practice gender separation.

Heba Yazbak (Balad)

Balad-United Arab List MK-elect Heba Yazbak at her party headquarters in Nazareth, March 2019.
Gil Eliahu

The 34-year-old rising star of the hard-line Balad party has said she will not be like her predecessor, Haneen Zoabi, who stepped down this year after a decade in the Knesset where she became Israel’s “most hated” politician according to various popular newspapers. During the campaign, Yazbak, an academic and activist, made it clear that while she shares her Arab nationalist party’s ideological goal of turning Israel into a “state of all its citizens,” she doesn’t see the Knesset as the battleground for this fight. She has promised to focus instead on the daily problems faced by the country’s marginalized Arab minority, from domestic violence to poverty and drug addiction, and to try to help get more Arab women into the workplace.

OUT

Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu)

Outgoing Kulanu MK Merav Ben Ari.
Eyal Toueg

One lawmaker who is surely disappointed at failing to return to the Knesset but perhaps glad to have more family time is social activist Ben Ari. She gave birth to a girl two years ago, fathered by a gay friend, and is raising her daughter as a single parent. Though she was one of the most active and visible lawmakers of the party founded by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in 2015, the party’s number of representatives dropped dramatically Tuesday from 10 seats to four, leaving her adrift in the sixth slot.

Caroline Glick (Hayamin Hehadash)

Caroline Glick.
Screengrab from Facebook

It’s back to the newsroom for Jerusalem Post columnist Glick, who left journalism to become the first addition to the Hayamin Hehadash party founded by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked last December. Glick, an American immigrant, charged on Election Day that her party was the victim of a campaign led by Likud and the Union of Right-Wing Parties that was “threatening to destroy” her party. There will be a silver lining, however: Glick was publicly unhappy about having to give up her American citizenship to serve in the Knesset; now that’s no longer a problem.

Yehudah Glick (Likud)

Outgoing Likud MK Yehudah Glick in the Knesset in 2016.
Sebastian Scheiner,AP

The U.S.-born Temple Mount activist-turned-politician who survived an assassination attempt in 2014 will take a great deal of color and character with him when he leaves the Knesset. He surely wasn’t surprised when Tuesday’s election left him on the outside: At number 42 on the Likud ticket, his chances of making it into the Knesset were virtually nil. Glick can at least console himself that he will now have more time to spend with his new bride: After being widowed last year, he is newly married.

Orli Levi-Abekasis (Gesher)

Orli Levi-Abekasis, whose Gesher party failed to pass the electoral threshold on Election Day.
Olivier Fitoussi

After falling out with Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party she represented from 2009-2016, Levi-Abekasis decided to go her own way as an independent Knesset member and founded her own political party last year. Hoping to stand alone in the election, she refused to make a deal to merge with other parties, believing that her new party’s message of social justice and fighting for women’s issues would resonate. Unfortunately for Levi-Abekasis, it didn’t, and Gesher only secured 1.75 percent of the total vote — well below the electoral threshold.

Merav Michaeli (Labor)

Merav Michaeli at a Labor Party event, February 2019.
Ilan Assayag

It is hard to imagine the Labor Party’s Knesset faction without its most visible and outspokenly feminist member. But the party only won six seats on Tuesday, so 52-year-old Michaeli — seventh on the party slate and a former Haaretz op-ed writer — is out. However, she could make a comeback soon if the party’s head, Avi Gabbay, either resigns voluntarily or is forced out as punishment for leading Labor to its worst ever electoral performance.

Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Hayamin Hehadash)

Shuli Moalem-Refaeli.
Yitzhak Harari / Harari

Whether or not the new party co-headed by Bennett and Shaked scrapes over the electoral threshold — a question that has led to much nail-biting in the religious Zionist community, and may yet be settled by a recount — Moalem-Refaeli knows she is definitely out. The only lawmaker of Habayit Hayehudi to jump ship along with Bennett and Shaked, she was fifth on her new party’s slate and — if it’s lucky — the party will only get four seats. Moalem-Refaeli, who served from 2013-2019, was a leading member of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality.

The double loss of Moalem-Refaeli and Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie represents a blow to feminists — particularly those from the Orthodox community, in which the two women were active leaders.

Ali Salalha (Meretz)

For a brief moment on Thursday, the former principal of Israel’s top-ranking high school was set to be a freshman Knesset member at the grand age of 67 after late-counted votes — including from soldiers and hospital patients — gave his left-wing party an extra seat. However, the final result close to midnight saw Meretz drop back to four seats and Salalha — who would have been the party's first Druze lawmaker — out of the Knesset before he even arrived there. Beit Jann, Salalha’s home village in the Galilee, certainly couldn’t be accused of not rallying behind its favorite son: He won 65 percent of the village vote on Tuesday (with a further 20 percent going to Kahol Lavan and its Druze candidate Mreer). Maybe next time.

This article was updated at 01:30 on April 12 to reflect the fact that Meretz lost one seat late Thursday when the final results were announced, and Ali Salalha will no longer be sitting in the Knesset. He was replaced in the list of new MKs by Ofer Cassif (Hadash-Ta'al).

Meretz MK-elect Ali Salalha at his home in Beit Jann, northern Israel.
Gil Eliahu