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The Prime Minister of Israel ( , Rosh HaMemshala, lit. Head of the Government) is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israelmarker (the title of President of Israel is an honorary position). The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalemmarker. The current prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, the ninth person to hold the position (excluding caretakers).

Following an election, the President nominates a member of the Knessetmarker to become prime minister after asking party leaders whom they support for the position. The nominee then presents a government platform and must receive a vote of confidence in order to become prime minister. Between 1996 and 2001, the prime minister was chosen in a separate election to the rest of the Knesset.


The office of prime minister came into existence on 14 May 1948, the date of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, when the provisional government was created. David Ben-Gurion, leader of Mapai and head of the Jewish Agency became Israel's first Prime Minister. The position became permanent on 8 March 1949, when the first government was formed. Ben-Gurion retained his role until late 1953, when he resigned in order to settle in the Kibbutz of Sde Bokermarker. He was replaced by Moshe Sharett. However, Ben-Gurion returned in a little under two years to reclaim his position. He resigned for a second time in 1963, breaking away from Mapai to form Rafi. Levi Eshkol took over as head of Mapai and prime minister. He became the first prime minister to head the country under the banner of two parties when Mapai formed the Alignment with Ahdut HaAvoda in 1965. In 1968 he also became the only party leader to command an absolute majority in the Knesset, after Mapam and Rafi merged into the Alignment, giving it 63 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

On 26 February 1969, Eshkol became the first prime minister to die in office, and was temporarily replaced by Yigal Allon. However, Allon's stint lasted less than a month, as the party persuaded Golda Meir to return to political life and become prime minister in March 1969. Meir was Israel's first woman prime minister, and the third in the world (after Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Indira Gandhi).

Meir resigned in 1974 after the Agranat Commission published its findings on the Yom Kippur War, even though it had absolved her of blame. Yitzhak Rabin took over, though he also resigned towards the end of the eighth Knesset's term following a series of scandals including the suicide of Housing Minister Avraham Ofer after police began investigating allegations he used party funds illegally, and Asher Yadlin (the governor-designate of the Bank of Israel) being sentenced to five years in prison for accepting bribes. Rabin's wife, Leah, was also found to have an overseas bank account, which was illegal in Israel at the time.

Menachem Begin became the first right-wing prime minister when his Likud won the 1977 elections, and retained the post in the 1981 elections. He resigned in 1983 for health reasons, passing the reins of power to Yitzhak Shamir.

After the 1984 elections had proved inconclusive with neither the Alignment nor Likud able to form a government, a national unity government was formed with a rotating prime ministership – Shimon Peres took the first two years, and was replaced by Shamir midway through the Knesset term.

Although the 1988 elections produced another national unity government, Shamir was able to take the role alone. Peres made an abortive bid to form a left-wing government in 1990, but failed, leaving Shamir in power until 1992.

Rabin became prime minister for the second time when he led Labour to victory in the 1992 elections. After his assassinationmarker on 4 November 1995, Peres took over as prime minister.


During the thirteenth Knesset (1992–1996) it was decided to hold a separate ballot for prime minister modeled after American presidential elections. In 1996, when the first such election took place, the outcome was a surprise win for Benjamin Netanyahu after election polls predicted that Peres was the winner. However, in the Knesset election held at the same time, Labour won. Thus Netanyahu, despite his theoretical position of power, needed the support of the religious parties to form a viable government.

Ultimately Netanyahu failed to hold the government together, and early elections for both Prime Minister and the Knesset were called in 1999. Although five candidates announced their intention to run, the three representing minor parties (Benny Begin of Herut – The National Movement, Azmi Bishara of Balad and Yitzhak Mordechai of the Centre Party) dropped out before election day, and Ehud Barak beat Netanyahu in the election. However, the new system had failed again, as although Barak's One Israel party (an alliance of Labour, Gesher and Meimad) won the Knesset election, they garnered only 26 seats, the lowest ever by a winning party, meaning that a coalition with six smaller parties was once again necessary.

In early 2001, Barak resigned following the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada. However, the government was not brought down, and only elections for prime minister were necessary. In the election itself, Ariel Sharon comfortably beat Barak, taking 62.4% of the vote. However, because Likud only had 21 seats in the Knesset, Sharon had to form a national unity government. Following Sharon's victory, it was decided to scrap separate elections for prime minister and return to the previous system.

2003 onwards

The 2003 elections were carried out in the same manner as prior to 1996. Likud won 38 seats, the highest by a party for over a decade, and as party leader Sharon was duly appointed PM. However, towards the end of his term and largely as a result of the deep divisions within Likud over Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, Sharon broke away from his party to form Kadima, managing to maintain his position as Prime Minister and also becoming the first Prime Minister not to be a member of either Labour or Likud (or their predecessors). However, he suffered a stroke in January 2006, in the midst of election season, leading Ehud Olmert to become Acting Prime Minister in the weeks leading to the elections. He was voted by the cabinet to be Interim Prime Minister just after the 2006 elections, when Sharon had reached 100 days of incapacitation. He thus became Israel's third Interim Prime Minister, only days before forming his own new Government as the official Prime Minister of Israel.

Order of succession

If the Prime Minister dies in office, the Cabinet chooses an Interim Prime Minister, to run the government until a new government is placed in power. Yigal Allon served as Interim Prime Minister following Levi Eshkol's death, as did Shimon Peres following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabinmarker.

According to Israeli law, if a Prime Minister is temporarily incapacitated rather than dies (as was the case following Ariel Sharon's stroke in early 2006), power is transferred to the Acting Prime Minister, until the prime minister recovers (Ehud Olmert took over from Sharon), for up to 100 days. If the prime minister is declared permanently incapacitated, or that period expires, the President of Israel oversees the process of assembling a new governing coalition, and in the meantime the acting prime minister or other incumbent minister is appointed by the Cabinet to serve as Interim Prime Minister.

In the case of Sharon, elections were already due to occur within 100 days of the beginning of his coma thus the post-election coalition building process pre-empted the emergency provisions for the selection of a new prime minister. Nevertheless, Olmert was appointed interim prime minister on 16 April 2006, after the elections, just days before he had formed a government on 4 May 2006, to become the official prime minister.

Acting, vice and deputy prime minister

Aside from the position of acting prime Minister, there are also vice prime ministers and deputy prime ministers.

Interim government

Prime minister's residence

During his term of office, the prime minister lives in Jerusalem. Since 1974, the official residence of the prime minister is Beit Aghion, at the corner of Balfour and Smolenskin streets in Rehaviamarker.

List of Prime Ministers

A total of twelve people have served as Prime Minister of Israel, five of whom have served on two non-consecutive occasions. Additionally, one person, Yigal Allon has served solely as an Interim Prime Minister. The other two who have served as Interim Prime Minister have gone on to become the Prime Minister.

# Picture Name Born – Died Term started Term ended Political Party
1. David Ben-Gurion 1886–1973 14 May 1948 26 January 1954 Mapai
2. Moshe Sharett 1894–1965 26 January 1954 3 November 1955 Mapai
2nd term David Ben-Gurion 1886–1973 3 November 1955 26 June 1963 Mapai
3. Levi Eshkol 1 2 1895–1969 26 June 1963 26 February 1969 MapaiAlignment (from 12 January 1966)
Interim PM Yigal Allon 2 1918–1980 26 February 1969 17 March 1969 Alignment
4. Golda Meir 1898–1978 17 March 1969 3 June 1974 Alignment
5. Yitzhak Rabin 3 1922–1995 3 June 1974 20 June 1977 Alignment
6. Menachem Begin 1913–1992 20 June 1977 10 October 1983 Likud
7. Yitzhak Shamir 1915– 10 October 1983 13 September 1984 Likud
8. Shimon Peres 4 1923– 13 September 1984 20 October 1986 Alignment
2nd term Yitzhak Shamir 4 1915– 20 October 1986 13 July 1992 Likud
2nd term Yitzhak Rabin 5 1922–1995 13 July 1992 4 November 1995 Labour
Interim PM Shimon Peres 5 1923– 4 November 1995 22 November 1995 Labour
2nd term Shimon Peres 5 1923– 22 November 1995 18 June 1996 Labour
9. Benjamin Netanyahu 1949– 18 June 1996 6 July 1999 Likud
10. Ehud Barak 1942– 6 July 1999 7 March 2001 One Israel/Labour
11. Ariel Sharon 6 1928– 7 March 2001 14 April 2006 (Incapacitated from 4 January 2006) LikudKadima (from 21 November 2005)
Interim PM Ehud Olmert 7 1945– 14 April 2006 (Acting from 4 January 2006) 4 May 2006 Kadima
12. Ehud Olmert 8 1945– 4 May 2006 31 March 2009 8 Kadima
2nd term Benjamin Netanyahu 1949– 31 March 2009 present Likud

1 In 1965 Mapai merged with Ahdut HaAvoda to form the Labour Alignment, later renamed Alignment.

2 Eshkol died while in office. Yigal Allon briefly served as acting prime minister until he was replaced by Meir.

3 Rabin resigned and called for early elections in December 1976. After he was re-elected as the Alignment's leader, he resigned as candidate for the upcoming elections on 7 April 1977, but continued to serve as prime minister until Begin's first government was formed.

4 After the 1984 elections, Likud and the Alignment reached a coalition agreement by which the role of prime minister would be rotated mid-term between them. Shimon Peres of the Alignment served as prime minister for the first two years, and then the role was passed to Yitzhak Shamir. After the 1988 election Likud was able to govern without the Alignment, and Yitzhak Shamir became prime minister again.

5 Rabin was assassinated while in office. Shimon Peres served as acting PM until 22 November 1995.

6 On 21 November 2005, PM Sharon, along with several other ministers and MKs, split from Likud over the issue of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and negotiations over the final status of the West Bank. Sharon formed a new party, Kadima, which would go on to compete in the following elections of March 2006. Sharon continued as Prime Minister.

7 As the result of Ariel Sharon suffering a severe stroke on 4 January 2006, and being put under general anaesthetic, Ehud Olmert served as the Acting Prime Minister ( ) from 4 January to 14 April, according to Basic Law: The Government: "Should the Prime Minister be temporarily unable to discharge his duties, his place will be filled by the Acting Prime Minister. After the passage of 100 days upon which the Prime Minister does not resume his duties, the Prime Minister will be deemed permanently unable to exercise his office." Basic Law: the Governmet 2001, section 16b In Sharon's case, this occurred on 14 April 2006, upon which Olmert became Interim Prime Minister.

8 Olmert officially resigned on 21 September 2008. With this his cabinet became an interim government, and he was the "interim" prime minister until the establishment of a new governing coalition (he was officially the prime minister, however, the government under him was an interim government, in this case).

Name Term Date of birth
Yitzhak Shamir (1st) 1983–1984 (2nd) 1986–1992 15 October 1915
Shimon Peres (1st) 1984–1986 (2nd) 1995–1996 2 August 1923
Benjamin Netanyahu (1st) 1996–1999 (2nd) 2009–present 21 October 1949
Ehud Barak 1999–2001 12 February 1942
Ariel Sharon 2001–2006 26 February 1928
Ehud Olmert 2006–2009 30 September 1945


  1. Basic Law: The Government (2001) Sections 7a, 13d
  2. Prime Minister Netanyahu. Remember? Maariv, 30 August 2005
  3. Q&A: Israel's political future BBC News, 11 January 2006
  4. From modesty to monstrosity, David Kroyanker, Haaretz, May 1, 2009
  5. [1] Knesset, Governments of Israel
  6. Basic Law: The Government (2001) Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 7 March 2001

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