The Prime Minister of Israel
( , Rosh
, lit. Head of the Government) is the head of the
Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in
Israel (the title of President of Israel is an honorary
The prime minister is the country's chief
executive. The official residence of the prime minister,
Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem.
The current prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu
, the ninth person to hold the position
an election, the President nominates a member of the Knesset to become
prime minister after asking party leaders whom they support for the
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
became Israel's first Prime Minister. The position
became permanent on 8 March 1949, when the first government
formed. Ben-Gurion retained his role until late 1953,
when he resigned in order to settle in the Kibbutz of Sde Boker.
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
took over as head of Mapai
prime minister. He became the first prime minister to head the
country under the banner of two parties when Mapai formed the
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
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
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
took over, though he also resigned towards the end of the
term following a series of scandals including the suicide of
Housing Minister Avraham Ofer
police began investigating allegations he used party funds
illegally, and Asher Yadlin
governor-designate of the Bank of Israel) being sentenced to five years in prison
accepting bribes. Rabin's wife, Leah
also found to have an overseas
, which was illegal in Israel at the time.
became the first
prime minister when
won the 1977 elections
retained the post in the 1981 elections
resigned in 1983 for health reasons, passing the reins of power to
After the 1984
had proved inconclusive with neither the Alignment
nor Likud able to form a government, a national unity government
with a rotating prime ministership – Shimon
took the first two years, and was replaced by Shamir
midway through the Knesset term.
Although the 1988
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
Rabin became prime minister for the second time when he led
to victory in the
assassination on 4 November 1995, Peres took over as prime
During the thirteenth
(1992–1996) it was decided to hold a separate ballot
for prime minister modeled after American presidential
. In 1996, when the first such election
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
Although five candidates announced their intention to run, the
three representing minor parties (Benny
– The National Movement
and Yitzhak Mordechai
of the Centre Party
) dropped out before
election day, and Ehud Barak
Netanyahu in the election
the new system had failed again, as although Barak's One Israel
party (an alliance of Labour, Gesher
) won the Knesset election
garnered only 26 seats, the lowest ever by a winning party, meaning
that a coalition with six smaller parties was once again
In early 2001, Barak resigned following the outbreak of the
. However, the
government was not brought down, and only elections for prime
minister were necessary. In the election itself
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
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
, Sharon broke away from his party to form
, 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
become Acting Prime Minister in the weeks leading to the elections.
He was voted by the cabinet to be Interim Prime Minister just after
, 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 Rabin.
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
, 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
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.
Prime minister's residence
During his term of office, the prime minister lives in Jerusalem.
1974, the official residence of the prime minister is Beit Aghion,
at the corner of Balfour and Smolenskin streets in Rehavia.
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
1 In 1965 Mapai merged with Ahdut HaAvoda to form the Labour Alignment, later renamed
Eshkol died while in office. Yigal Allon
briefly served as acting prime
minister until he was replaced by Meir.
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
April 1977, but continued to serve as prime minister until Begin's
first government was formed.
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.
Rabin was assassinated while in office. Shimon Peres
served as acting PM until 22 November 1995.
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.
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
Sharon's case, this occurred on 14 April 2006, upon which Olmert
became Interim Prime Minister.
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
the government under him was an interim
, in this case).
- Basic Law: The Government (2001) Sections 7a, 13d
- Prime Minister Netanyahu. Remember? Maariv, 30
- Q&A: Israel's political future BBC News, 11
- From modesty to monstrosity, David Kroyanker,
Haaretz, May 1,
-  Knesset, Governments of Israel
- Basic Law: The Government (2001) Israeli
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 7 March 2001