Prime Minister of Israel

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The Prime Minister of Israel (Hebrew: ראש הממשלה, Rosh Hamemshala, lit. Head of Government) is the elected head of the Israeli government. He is usually the leader of the largest political party or coalition of parties in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.


Prime Ministers of Israel (1948-Present)

A total of eleven people have served as Prime Minister of Israel. Four of those people have served on two non-consecutive occasions.

Name Took Office Left Office Party
1 David Ben-Gurion, 1st time 1948 1954 Mapai
2 Moshe Sharett 1954 1955 Mapai
David Ben-Gurion, 2nd time 1955 1963 Mapai
3 Levi Eshkol 1963 1969 Mapai*
4 Golda Meir 1969 1974 Labour Party
5 Yitzhak Rabin, 1st time 1974 1977 Labour Party
6 Menachem Begin 1977 1983 Likud
7 Yitzhak Shamir, 1st time 1983 1984 Likud
8 Shimon Peres, 1st time ** 1984 1986 Labour Party
Yitzhak Shamir, 2nd time ** 1986 1992 Likud
Yitzhak Rabin, 2nd time 1992 1995 (assassinated while in office) Labour Party
Shimon Peres, 2nd time 1995 1996 Labour Party
9 Benjamin Netanyahu 1996 1999 Likud
10 Ehud Barak 1999 2001 Labour Party
11 Ariel Sharon 2001 (present) Likud

(*) In 1968 Mapai merged with other parties to form the Labour Alignment (now the Israeli Labour Party)

(**) It should be noted that after the election of 1984, the Likud and Labour parties reached a coalition agreement by which the role of prime minister would be rotated mid-term between them. Shimon Peres of Labour served during the first two years as prime minister, and then the role was passed to Yitzhak Shamir. After the 1988 election Likud was able to govern without the Labour party, and Yitzhak Shamir became prime minister again.

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At its founding, the State of Israel adopted the parliamentary political system, with a Prime Minister at the most powerful political leader of the government and a largely ceremonial president as head of State. According to the original Basic Law, following elections to the Knesset, the President assigns the task of forming a Government to a member of Knesset (conventionally the leader of the party that has won a plurality of Knesset seats), and this individual becomes Prime Minister after s/he successfully forms a Government that has the support of 61 members (a majority) in the Knesset. Occasionally, the title of "Premier" is used when referring to the Prime Minister.

The Basic Law was amended in 1992, providing for the direct election of the Prime Minister, separate from the Knesset election. Three elections were held under this system: 1996, 1999, and 2001. (2001 was the only time that a Prime Ministerial election was held without a Knesset election. Thus, from 2001-2003 Ariel Sharon (Likud) was Prime Minister while Labour held a plurality of Knesset seats.) In 2001, the Basic Law was amended again, abolishing direct elections and reverting to the original system. Thus, in 2003 and subsequent elections, the Prime Minister is chosen as the head of the largest party in the Knesset.

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