Who are the top ministers in Israel's new far-right cabinet?

Who are the top ministers in Israel's new far-right cabinet?
Israel's new cabinet, scheduled to be sworn in on Thursday, will be the country's most right-wing cabinet according to analysts.
4 min read
29 December, 2022
Veteran Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to lead Israel's new government [AMIR COHEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled his new government, that includes far-right religious and nationalist parties.

Analysts have called the incoming government the most right-wing in Israel's history, and includes several figures who have made inflammatory comments against the Palestinians and support the annexation of the occupation West Bank

The top cabinet members, who will reportedly be sworn in on Thursday, include:

Defence Minister: Yoav Galant

A member of Netanyahu's conservative Likud party, Galant, 64, began his military service as a navy frogman and had been slated to become armed forces chief in 2011, but stepped aside over allegations that he carried out building work on his home without a permit.

Finance Minister: Bezalel Smotrich 

A West Bank settler who heads the hardline Religious Zionism party, Smotrich will lead the Treasury under a rotation deal with Aryeh Deri from the religious Shas Party. After raising concern by saying Israel would prosper if it embraced biblical values, Smotrich has clarified that he champions free markets.

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Smotrich, 42, opposes Palestinian statehood. In the past, he has agitated against Israel's Palestinian minority citizens, condemned LGBT activists and called the justice system too liberal. He now says he will serve all Israelis.

His new cabinet duties include a role within the Defence Ministry overseeing illegal West Bank settlements, which he wants to see expanded and, eventually, annexed by Israel. He previously served as transport minister.

National Security Minister: Itamar Ben-Gvir

A West Bank settler who heads the far-right Jewish Power party, Ben-Gvir secured an expanded cabinet ministry in charge of police. He has vowed to focus on law and order for all citizens, but he favours freer open-fire regulations for Israeli forces enforcing the occupation.

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Ben-Gvir, 46, opposes Palestinian statehood and advocates the dismantling of the interim Palestinian Authority government set up in the 1990s.

He once belonged to Kahane Chai, a Jewish militant group that is blacklisted in Israel and the United States. He has since disavowed some Kahane views. The group is associated with the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, in which an American-Israeli member of Kahane Chai opened fire on Palestinian Muslim worshippers, leaving 29 dead and dozens more wounded.

In 2007, Ben-Gvir was convicted of incitement against Palestinians and support for terrorism. He is now a lawyer.

Foreign Minister: Eli Cohen

As intelligence minister in a previous Netanyahu government, Cohen, 50, visited Sudan as part of Israel's efforts to bring the African and Arab country into regional normalisation deals known as the Abraham Accords. He is a member of Likud.

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Interior and Health Minister: Aryeh Deri

Deri, 63, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, is the veteran leader of Shas, which draws support from religious Jews of Middle Eastern descent. His appointment to the new Netanyahu government has been challenged in Israel's Supreme Court given his conviction for tax fraud - without prison time - last year.

In 1999, Deri was sentenced to three years in jail for taking bribes. He returned to politics in 2012. Under his coalition deal, he will become finance minister in two years.

Shas, along with another ultra-Orthodox party, United Torah Judaism, has long raised concerns among secular liberals by demanding welfare benefits and military draft exemptions for its constituents.

Housing Minister: Yitshak Goldknop

A leader of United Torah Judaism, which draws support from religious Jews of European descent, 72-year-old Golfknopf is a newcomer to national politics. He made headlines when he denied knowledge of a crisis over a shortage of housing that has priced out many Israelis.

Strategic Affairs Minister: Ron Dermer

A former ambassador to Washington, Dermer was key to forging Israeli relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020 in a diplomatic drive by the Republican administration of then-US President Donald Trump. But Dermer, 51, had cooler ties with the previous Democratic administration, some whose members serve under current US President Joe Biden.