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Next Israeli Cabinet likely to have just two women compared to nine ministers in previous one

Make-up of parliament remains largely consistent, although Arab representation hit a two-decade low, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. The parliament was sworn in on Tuesday.

Likud party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and Miri Regev cast votes in the Likud primaries, at a polling station in Tel Aviv, August 10, 2022. (Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israel’s executive branch is likely to have half the number of women that the previous government did, according to Prof. Ofer Kenig of the Israel Democracy Institute. 

The “change government” under Prime Minister Yair Lapid had a record nine female ministers – one-third of the total ministers. 

“The next government, we know that Knesset Member Miri Regev (Likud) and Knesset Member Orit Strook (Religious Zionism) are likely to be ministers, but beyond that, I really don’t know if we’ll see any others,” Kening told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “At best, we’ll have four to five women in the government. This is a result of the inclusion of the 18 seats that make up the ultra-Orthodox parties and exclude women from their list.”

Kenig spoke to ALL ISRAEL NEWS a day before Israel’s 25th Knesset was sworn in on Tuesday. 

During the swearing-in ceremony, Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned the new parliament to remember the country’s minorities – and for good reason. While the recent election saw a big win for the center-right and religious parties – including 14 seats for Religious Zionism – Kenig noted that the country’s 37th government is unlikely to include any non-Jews, while the outgoing executive branch included two. Arabs make up 21% of Israel’s population and other non-Jewish minorities account for around another 5%. 

Moreover, he said the Cabinet is unlikely to include an Ethiopian-born minister, which Israel had with Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) in the previous government. 

On the other hand, he said the ultra-Orthodox and the settler movement are likely to be overrepresented. Although it is unclear who from these parties will ultimately get portfolios, Kenig noted that about 8% of the newly sworn in Knesset is comprised of settlers, compared to around 5% of the Israeli population.

Similarly, around 15% of the new Knesset is ultra-Orthodox versus only 12% to 13% of the population.

The previous executive branch did not have a single ultra-Orthodox member.

KNESSET REPRESENTATION STEADY

Regarding the makeup of the parliament itself, however, Kenig said “there are not that many changes.” 

The number of female Knesset members at the swearing-in ceremony remained steady for the fifth time in a row. In each of the last five elections between 28 and 30 women have been elected to serve in Israel’s parliament. 

“Women’s representation in the outgoing Knesset hit an all-time high of 36, as a result of the switches in Knesset members as a result of the ‘Norwegian Law,” Kenig explained. “This arrangement allows Knesset members who were appointed as ministers to resign from the Knesset and make way for other candidates from their list.”

He said it is likely that a few more women will join the Knesset this round, too, after a few of its members are handed out their portfolios.

In the current Knesset, the faction with the most women is current Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (nine), Kenig said. The Labor faction is the only party to have a majority of women – three out of four Knesset members.

The coalition that is expected to support the 37th government will have only nine women among its 64 members (14%). The opposition, in sharp contrast, will have 20 women out of 56 (36%).

There are only 10 non-Jews in the 25th Knesset and Arab representation is at its lowest in decades – since 2003, Kenig added. He said this is a result of low Arab voter turnout, the decision by the Arab parties to split their list – which ultimately resulted in Balad not crossing the electoral threshold – and because there are no Arab Knesset members on any of the “general” lists. 

In the 24th Knesset, there were five non-Jewish Knesset members on Jewish party lists, including Meretz, Israel Beytenu and Labor. 

This time, there will only be one Druze Knesset member, Hamad Amar, who made it into the Knesset on Yisrael Beytenu’s list after the double-envelope ballots were counted. 

Arab voter turnout did increase by about 8% over the previous election, but it is still quite low compared to general voter turnout, which stands at more than 70%. 

Other interesting facts about the new Knesset? 

Twenty-three of those who took the oath on Tuesday are first-time parliamentarians. 

The most senior Knesset member is Moshe Gafni, head of the United Torah Judaism party who was first elected to the Knesset in 1988.

Although Netanyahu was also elected in 1988, he did not serve in the 15th Knesset from 1999 to 2003, Kenig noted.

Maayan Hoffman is a veteran American-Israeli journalist and strategic communications consultant. She is the former news editor, head of strategy and senior health analyst for the Jerusalem Post, where she launched the outlet's Health & Wellness, Business & Innovation and Christian World portals.

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